Imagine a technique that begins with one simple movement and transforms every muscle in your entire body... a technique so easy you can learn it yourself.. .and so amazingly effective that your whole life may change for the better.

"The Alexander Technique
Nobel Prize-winner Nikolaas Tinbergen hailed the discovery of the. technique. With "growing amazement" he and his family noted "very striking improvements" in high blood pressure, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. Tinbergen concluded that the technique may often produce "profound and beneficial effects" to help: relieve rheumatism, various forms of arthritis and respiratory ailments • remedy circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure • alleviate many digestive disorders • reduce sexual failures, migraines and depression. Now you can learn the secrets of this unique, effortless technique and begin to realize your full physical and mental potential, starting today.

"Like opening a door into another world..."
One of our foremost teachers and practitioners of the Alexander Technique, Sarah Barker, has taught this amazingly effective method of mobilizing total energy in colleges across the country. From her own experience she has found that "the mere performance of this simple movement can, if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity, put you on the road to a new life of health, physical freedom and, in the deepest sense, personal happiness." Try the technique yourself for a few weeks with her simple, everyday routines and see what wonders it can do for you.

THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The Revolutionary Way To Use Your Body For Total Energy by Sarah Barker BANTAM BOOKS TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON • SYDNEY .

consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a bantam. Its trademark. Inc. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books. New York 10103.For Marj THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO USE YOUR BODY FOR TOTAL ENERGY 2nd printing A Bantam Book /August 1978 April 1979 3rd printing February 1981 Photographs courtesy of Susan and Reed ErskinelLightworks All rights reserved. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Inc. Inc. New York. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 . This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part. Copyright © 1978 by Bantam Books.. is Registered in U. 666 Fifth Avenue. ISBN 0-553-14976-8 Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books. by mimeograph or any other means. without permission. Inc.S. For information address: Bantam Books.

Contents Acknowledgments PART I LEARNING ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: The Important Benefits It Offers You THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The What and the Why Scientific Acclaim Feeling at Your Best Age Is No Barrier If You Are Overweight Your Rampant Emotions Living Without Stress Being Who You Are Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases A Simple Method ix l 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8 Chapter 1 Chapter 2 HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED The Australian Story Crisis on Stage The Patient Scientist A Unique Mission The Search and the Answer Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Those Puritanical Hang-Ups 10 10 11 12 13 13 15 15 V .

No Poses How to Look at Pictures The Breath of Life Let It Happen Your Breathing Improves How We Got This Way Three Easy Tests See For Yourself The Road to Take THE BASIC MOVEMENT Not an Exercise How to Start THE BASIC MOVEMENT Exploring Yourself The Basic Movement Your Whole Head Your Whole Body The Upward Direction On Your Way The Instant Train How to Succeed Without Really Trying 17 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 32 32 32 34 35 37 37 38 39 39 41 41 42 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 BECOME A WHOLE PERSON The Trouble with Physical Exercise The Trance in Which We Live Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves The Crown of the Senses Discover a World Within Part Person vs.Chapter3 BRINGING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE What Is Good Use? You Are Not a Statue No Positions. Whole Person Staying in the Moment vi CONTENTS .

Chapter 6 THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG Why We Shrink The Upright Creature Must We Fall Apart? How We Conquer It Goes by Itself Never a Feeling of Strain A Future Without Fear THE PRACTICE OF THE TECHNIQUE How to Do It THE SEVEN ACTIONS An Effortless Program No Dumb-Bells. No Leotards A Way to Begin For Your Enjoyment Nine Rules to Follow 43 44 44 45 46 47 49 49 PART II 51 52 52 52 53 54 54 56 56 56 57 58 58 59 61 61 61 62 63 65 66 CONTENTS vii Action 1 LEANING FORWARD A N D BACKWARD Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Eating Soup How to Get Out of a Slump The Way You Talk MOVING ARMS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Brushing Your Teeth Opening a Door With Children Action 2 .

Action 3 WALKING WITH EASE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Jogging and Running Playing Golf MOVING LEGS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs HEEL A N D TOE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life KNEE-BENDING Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life STANDING UP A N D SITTING D O W N Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE A Time For Rest Rotating Your Head Moving Your Arms Moving Your Legs Rolling onto Your Side Sitting Up 68 68 68 72 72 73 76 76 76 80 80 82 82 82 84 86 86 86 88 90 90 90 96 97 97 100 100 102 103 103 Action 4 Action 5 Action 6 Action 7 viii CONTENTS .

Panic 104 106 SOME HELPFUL HINTS The Worrier The Straining Housewife The Thinker The Scientist The Manipulator The Under-Achiever The Step-by-Stepper The Freezer The Over-Achiever The Practicer The Posture-Maker The Weight-Watcher 107 107 108 109 109 109 109 110 110 111 111 112 112 CONTENTS ix . Anger.Restful Slumber Emotional ControlWorry.

benefited from the teaching experiments I conducted in the preparation of this book. the rest of us. if given a set of sure guidelines. Peter Trimmer. Then I remembered that its originator. graciously and expertly collaborated with me in demonstrating for the photographs that illustrate this book. F M. for his remarkable speech accepting the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Alexander. I would like to thank the various Alexander teachers with whom I have studied and spent long hours in discussion. who were always available for the encouragement and energy needed to carry on. Special acknowledgment is due my colleagues and associates at Rancho Linda Vista in Arizona. hopefully. which places the Alexander Technique in a modern scixi . Surely. of Oxford University.Acknowledgments Before undertaking to write a "how to" book on the Alexander Technique. and thanks are also due to a number of close friends. especially those who patiently suffered and. who supported me with their probing questions. I received the help of innumerable people to whom I am most grateful. even lacking his genius. I am grateful to Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. and whose individual help in some cases was indispensable to me. My colleague. and all my students. When I began the necessary exploring and investigation. I am also indebted to several distinguished scholars in the field. I thought long and hard: The idea of learning the Technique from a book seemed revolutionary and possibly heretical. had on his own discovered how to control the use of his body. upon whose work I have drawn freely. could learn how.

has contributed so greatly to public appreciation of the Alexander Technique. Frank Pierce Jones. whose study introducing The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). Research Associate at the Tufts Institute for Psychological Research. an indispensable selection of Alexanders writings. Matthias Alexander. to Professor Raymond A. the greatest debt of all is to Alexander himself. Dart. who laid down the guidelines for those of us who have followed him. for the insights in his Anatomist's Tribute to F. Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Dean Emeritus of the Medical Faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. whose studies of the Alexander Technique have accomplished much for the scientific understanding of this work. In a couple of spots. to Edward Maisel. with Maisel's generous permission. Sarah Barker xii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . I have. Wilfred Barlow for his informative accounts of the medical use of the Technique in treating patients. Of course. to the late Dr. The project is entirely my own. South Africa. to Dr. This book is not intended to reflect the views of any of the considerable number of people who helped me.entific perspective. closely paraphrased a few passages from that study.

PART 1 Learning About the Alexander Technique The Important Benefits It Offers You .

During the years before and after Alexander's death in 1955. a technique so amazing in its results that your physical and emotional life will soon change for the better. twenty-five years of investigation—using quantitative measure and control groups—have thrown important light on the manner in which the Alexander Technique produces its seemingly miraculous effects. like the opening of a door into another world. Scientific Acclaim It would surprise many people to realize what the Alexander Technique can do for them were its astonishing'results not supported by the most respectable scientific authority. That technique is the Alexander Technique. so simple that you can learn it yourself. named for its discoverer. Matthias Alexander.Chapter 1 The Alexander Technique: The What and the Why Imagine a technique for transforming the operation of your body. F. At the Tufts Institute for Experimental Psychology. reports by physicians attesting to its remarkable effectiveness in helping many of their patients. his students and followers conducted a considerable amount of research to substantiate his findings. and known around the world as one of the most extraordinary discoveries of our time. 2 . There has also accumulated an impressive volume of clinical data.

you're wrong. an exuberant and vital sense of wellness: physical freedom and ease combined with mental flexibility and alertness. full THE WHAT AND THE WHY 3 . It's never too late. you can begin to make a beneficial and healthy change. we "get by. We scarcely begin to realize our enormous potential. He thereupon underwent an extraordinary rejuvenation and lived another thirty-five rich. Even after forty or fifty years of continually misusing yourself.Feeling at Your Best Apart from suffering any specific medical symptoms. took up the Alexander Technique at the age of fifty-eight. one of the founding fathers of scientific philosophy and modern education. as normal. computerized or laser-beamed—that functions with such infinite resilience or so many delicate capacities as the human body. Indeed. so too are we daily abusing the most valuable resource of all—our bodies—and depleting our own energies. Ours is an era where people have begun to value their bodies as unique and wonderful. this factor may prove more critical than our ability to manipulate the environment further. Just as we have thoughtlessly depleted the natural resources of the planet. Age Is No Barrier If you think you're too old to begin learning anything so revolutionary. John Dewey." Good health is regarded as merely the absence of sickness. Against this keep-your-nose-above-water-level definition of being alive. humanity's chance to survive may depend upon how men and women salvage themselves. We "manage". We have learned that there is no mechanical device in the world—electronic. more than ever. the Alexander Technique proposes. most of us plod through our days and nights in a condition far below optimum. Many of us know now that through ignorance and insensibility we unnecessarily limit ourselves in how we function. and that today.

What about the way we wear our weight. The ninety-two-year-old Dewey attributed this vital longevity to his Alexander practice. And we have information about calisthenics. What many authorities therefore find most impressive about the Alexander Technique is embodied in Aldous Huxley's statement that "If you teach an individual to be aware of his physical organism and then to use it as it was meant to be used." Huxley might have given his own story as a case in point. He had begun to withdraw from people. one possessing a true waist and chest. the other a nondescript but thickening bulge? A beneficial side effect of the Alexander Technique is a better carriage of the body's weight. you can often change his entire attitude to life and cure his neurotic tendencies. diets and the dangers of eating too much. which determines success in attaining a beautifully proportionate body. and he was beset by a terrible 4 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . If You Are Overweight You can even streamline your physical appearance by means of the Alexander Technique. and it is hardly news that human development in general is retarded by fear reflexes unduly excited by emotions. George Bernard Shaw learned the Technique at eighty and lived to ninety-four.years. Something crucial is missing from our national quest for a more attractive physique. finding his physical and mental energies too drained by social contact. But little or nothing is ever mentioned about another important factor. The famous writer had spent all his days in a state of acute physical illness until he studied the Alexander Technique and transformed himself. We have sufficient data on calories. exercise and strenuous exertion. Your Rampant Emotions All of us are subject to "states" of various kinds. prejudices and fixed habits. whatever it may be? Why is it that two people of identical poundage and the same general build often have quite different looking torsos.

yoga and other remedies in vain. anger. but it was the Alexander Technique that opened up a new way to live. worry. you may also hunch your shoulders and fix your chest rigidly. he noted. "the psychological effects are of greater importance. panic. We also discover how much more we like other people when we have a more relaxed feeling about ourselves. We tend to be less depressed when we are not physically burdened. Can the Technique really help with our mental and emotional problems? Professor Frank Pierce Jones. He had tried gardening. Living Without Stress We can see how this works easily enough. the foremost scientific investigator among Alexander scholars. and we are no longer simply at the mercy of confusion. Or if you're anxious about something. But quite apart from these desirable side effects. reported in other therapies as well. Next time you're angry. Jones observed in his own experience "an almost immediate increase in mental and emotional control." This is because the Alexander Technique gives a workable approach in attacking emotional problems directly. you may find yourself making fidgety movements. for a change in mental attitude often accompanies an increase in health. may of course be explained as the happy side effects of any betterment in physical condition. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 5 . notice whether you clench your hands slightly or perhaps a great deal. There is likewise an improvement in our self-image when we feel more competent physically." Some of these.depression and a chronic insomnia that made it almost impossible to work. observed that while the physical effects of the Technique are indeed remarkable. Underneath are the unconscious tension states that can build into attitudes which interfere in our relationships with other people. These are all surface reactions we can observe. When angry.

Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. Being Who You Are The Alexander Technique has particular value for people who don't want to fill themselves with drugs. and moving hopefully from one fad to another. devoted half his acceptance speech to the Technique. upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine. If they turn to the Technique. countering their depressions and anxieties with a whole arsenal of tranquilizers. This new conscious control of yourself does not prevent you from feeling any emotional states—life would be rather stiff and boring if it did—but you will be able to allow for more appropriate and spontaneous responses to the events of your life if you are not locked into one fearful or angry response for all occasions. Millions of people exist in this half-alive state. or prevent the fidgeting. Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases Many people would find it hard to believe the seemingly fantastic medical cures attributed to the Alexander Technique except that these extraordinary reports come from reputable physicians and scientists. they are offered a release from the confines of habit so that they have some choice in their lives and become capable of acting more freely in whatever they do. He related how his interest in it 6 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . because you are no longer reinforcing them with body tension. hoping for some kind of emotional relief. Instead. In 1973. there is no magic formula that will instantly solve their problems. or to shop from therapy to therapy. you may find your feelings much more within your control.When you release those clenched fists. Thus freed. by means of the Alexander Technique. Once you break this cycle of reinforcing feeling with body tension. you are able to experience emotions fully in a few moments and begin thinking clearly again. you may even find that you no longer experience any disquiet—except perhaps to wonder where your rage or panic went.

depth of sleep. signed by nineteen doctors. resilience against outside pressure. Unfortunately. endorsing the Technique for its remarkable effectiveness in the treatment of many of their patients. gastrointestinal disorders of many types." A physician.He. and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument. which is a point that must be emphasized. Tinbergen concluded that while the Technique is assuredly no cure-all to be applied in every case. Wilfred Barlow. and I repeat once more. circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure and heart conditions. Dr. no discs. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 7 . "there can be no doubt that it often does have profound and beneficial effects. no cancers. migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide. they observed "with growing amazement" the marvelous results. might be helped by the Alexander Technique. Barlow called this statistic "almost unbelievable" and concluded that 99 percent of the population need the Technique. They noted. for example.was excited by a little experiment he had tried with his own family. overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. and reported that in this group there were no coronaries. that the Technique brought about "very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure. no strokes. respiratory ailments. both in the mental and somatic sphere. The British Medical Journal once published a letter." Tinbergen went on to affirm the possibility that certain other stress-related ailments could benefit from the Technique: rheumatism. sexual failures. his wife and one of their daughters had learned the Technique at the same time. All these as well as other non-bug diseases. conducted a survey of men and women who had long used the Alexander Technique. As their body musculature began to function differently. even asthma. no such evaluation has thus far been carried out. breathing. including various forms of arthritis. no ulcers. he suggested. no rheumatoid arthritis. no neurological disorders and no severe mental disorder. and called upon their profession to recognize and evaluate it.

there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available. If you have any ailment or illness—even one due to. "Since the Alexander Technique is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behavior. Those that have a professional interest in their bodies—musicians. you may readily apply it. or complicated by. In the words of Professor Frank Jones. the continual wear you place upon yourself through bad muscular habits—only your own physician can advise you if the Alexander Technique is likely to help. the Alexander principle has been encapsulated in one very simple action called the Basic Movement (Chapter 4). . New York and elsewhere find it accepted as a valuable resource in physiotherapy.Although there has accumulated an impressive volume of personal testimony. Highfashion magazines." In Part I. like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. A Simple Method People from all walks of life benefit from the Alexander Technique. It provides a compass for navigating in whatever physical or mental perplexities you may find yourself. A word of caution is therefore in order. actors—are making it an important part of their training program. It presents a simple method for learning the Technique by yourself. Whether seated in a theater or standing waiting for a bus. This book will introduce you to the Alexander process of thinking and moving. Part II presents a systematic program of seven easy Actions that shows you how to expand the Basic Movement as the basis for improving the quality of all the activities of 8 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . no thorough-going scientific investigation has been conducted into any of the medical claims that have been made for the Technique. have informed their readers of what the Technique will do for bodies that display expensive clothes. It offers a key for orienting yourself in all that you do. Patients in medical institutes in London. dancers.

These Actions will facilitate this because they are invariably involved in almost everything you do. however. "is one of the true epics of medical research and practice." THE WHAT AND THE WHY 9 . we need to learn more about Alexander himself and how he made his great discovery. of intelligence and of persistence. and the Technique that derives from it. "This story of perceptiveness. To understand the Alexander principle." said Professor Tinbergen in his Nobel speech.your everyday life. shown by a man without medical training.

are said to have hit upon the powerful mathematical tool of calculus at about the same moment in history. we can see that it does indeed owe almost everything to the peculiar genius of that individual and to the special circumstances of his or her particular life. an unusual woman who was close to the child during his formative 10 . But there are other turning points. And upon closer inspection. At first glance. that have been reached in total isolation from any ongoing tradition of study and research. In this way. acting independently of one another. The Australian Story Frederick Matthias Alexander came from a remote outpost of the Australian bush country. Whatever influence he may have had on his son was far overshadowed by the boy's mother. no less significant for the welfare of the human race. the new proposition put forth appears to have sprung full-blown from the brain of its originator. Newton and Leibniz. just waiting for the great person who discovered it. Not much is known about his father except that he was poor and hard-working. He was born in 1869 on the island of Tasmania in a small town named Wynyard. This is certainly true of the way the Alexander Technique was discovered.Chapter 2 How the Technique was Discovered Many a major innovation in the history of science appears to have been lying there.

In Melbourne. recitalist or both. Thus. she combined two of her talents. From the beginning. Alexander was different from other children. which was all the formal education the youngster received. By the time he was nineteen. Alexander was already considered an accomplished reciter of Shakespeare. After the mining came a succession of other uncongenial positions. and it was this disability which proved to be the determining factor in his life. Local doctors often called on her. giving his recitals on numerous smalltown stages. she had been known to saddle her horse and leap it over the paddock gate so as not to lose time fooling with the latch. saw that his difficult pupil was something more than the usual rebellious student. so he took a job with the local tin mining company. Sometimes during recitals his voice failed him completely—disturbing enough for any actor! Doctors could HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 11 . In this wild and remote part of the world. he decided to cast his lot with the theater as actor. and sometimes in response to urgent calls. He would have liked to go on the stage. tutored but not formally taught.years. but family poverty demanded that the eldest son go out to work. Fortunately. for the theater had been his love since early childhood. riding and midwifery (which included nursing and other medical services) to help her neighbors. and away from the mining company could consider himself legitimately to be a professional actor. trying to recoup his small fortune with odd jobs. Crisis on Stage He could have become the teacher his tutor wanted him to be. finally. however. Alexander won prizes and passed examinations with ease. a Scot who had emigrated to Australia in an effort to repair his health. refusing to accept anything on blind faith. when he began at six to practice the kind of recitations so popular in that day. his schoolmaster. He seemed to have an innate distrust of accepted routine and conventional wisdom. He persuaded Alexander's father to let him tutor the boy in the evenings. He worked under a handicap.

Once aware of it. becoming fascinated with the whole question of what happens to the body not only in speech. This pattern of unconscious activity constituted the preliminary to every recitation he gave. Alexander began to examine closely how he used himself physically when he was on stage—keeping his eyes open and observing. Instead. At first. the condition gradually worsened until he finally had to refuse engagements if he thought he might be incapable of getting through the performance. he lost his voice and left the stage in near despair. In time. The Patient Scientist That was the turning point. 12 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . This close scrutiny continued for nearly ten years. One night. but also when speaking normally in ordinary conversation. Meanwhile. but also during any physical activity. part of a whole body pattern that also included lifting his chest and hollowing his back. using mirrors while he declaimed as an aid to observation. which is fundamental to the spirit of all scientific inquiry. This was something he did. he came upon the characteristic that was blocking his own activity.give him no more than temporary relief. he could see the same pattern at work as involuntary preparation in whatever else he undertook. in fact. halfway through an important engagement during the 1888 season. He discovered that every movement he made was accompanied by a slight tendency to pull his head backward and down. he began with that slight pulling backward and down of his head. In everyday physical acts. quite apart from speaking. It was only more noticeable in formal recitation because there it produced a depression of the larynx and an audible sucking in of his breath that could. with attention. from the most trivial to the most strenuous. Changing the poise of his head by pulling it backward and down was. Alexander devoted himself to finding out what made him lose his voice. There were to be no more doctors. not only during his stage appearances. Soon he began to go beyond his immediate problem.

and a valuable compilation of his essential writings may be found in The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). He observed similar consequences. Statesmen. no matter what business or occupation. South Africa and other countries of the world. France. New Zealand. he withdrew more and more from acting. For as he pondered the far-reaching consequences of his startling discovery for the physical. finally abandoning the stage to carve a unique career as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. Alexander resumed his theatrical career. He continued this mission until his death at the age of eighty-six. and during his lifetime he worked both in England and America. his teachings spread to Denmark. A Unique Mission Since these patterns of bad use were triggered by an unconscious reflex of pulling the head backward and down. diplomats. movie stars. Through his students. Thus. He also produced several books. Switzerland. Israel. the obvious solution was to substitute for this negative action (with all the consequences it initiated) the conscious constructive movement of the head and body upward. Italy. Australia. in everything else he did. all his other activities were likewise initiated in the same self-stultifying manner. athletes and celebrities of all kinds sought him out. writers. The Search and the Answer We can come closer to understanding the nature of the discovery that underlies all we are going to learn in this book if we now outline it in the terms suggested at the outset of this chapter: a special kind of person makes an important HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 13 . after he-had completely corrected the long-standing vocal disability that drove him from the stage. industrialists. on a different scale. mental and emotional well-being of people everywhere.be seen and heard. theater people. But not for long.

That secret is a small but perceptible contraction of the muscles at the back of his neck. and it precedes all efforts at vocal articulation. it takes almost ten years of searching through more minute movements before the secret reveals itself. results are frustratingly slow in coming. His career seems assured—his reputation is growing steadily. No use in seeing more and more doctors. Being a far from submissive personality. only to have his voice fail completely halfway through an especially important engagement.finding through the circumstances of his or her particular life and in isolation from any tradition of scientific thought on the subject. The scene is Australia during the 1880s. and his only stumbling block is the occasional but very annoying tendency of his voice to give out during recitals. where we find the young Alexander confronted with a problem of survival. he is forced to see a doctor about the problem. Alexander has found the key. for he realizes that the physicians of his day know even less about his condition than he does. a remedy 14 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Alexander resumes his profession with renewed confidence. His great love for the theater had caused him to gravitate through a series of unchallenging occupations before attaining. While carefully limiting his theatrical obligations. At the age of nineteen. Eventually. Through years of carefully watching his every motion in an elaborate system of mirrors. In fact. This leaves him with the ugly choice between (1) leaving the theater altogether or (2) applying himself tirelessly to discovering the cause of the problem. at last. he devotes the rest of his time to a painstaking and meticulous observation of the only clue he has—himself. but he does prescribe a medicine that might just do the trick. a career on the stage. Alexander chooses the latter. Thus armed. he is an actor specializing in the recital of long passages from the works of classic playwrights. It turns out that the doctor cannot find the cause.

repeated hundreds of times a day over a span of many years. He must release that contraction with movement of his head upward. this destructive series can compress the body's trunk. To eliminate the problem at its source. body following it.will follow. high blood pressure and chronic joint and muscle pains. which. we need a new approach—one that can bring subconscious sensations forward into the conscious mind. reducing lung capacity and projecting the stomach unpleasingly forward. thus squeezing the delicate organs that reside there. They form an inseparable whole. the action that most often precedes wasteful or harmful responses is a contraction which pulls the head slightly backward and down. Taken together. which can cause loss of voice. In order to revise things of which we are not aware. The person is one psychophysical organism. Those Puritanical Hang-Ups A major conclusion that emerged from Alexander's study and observation. Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Basically. Unfortunately. We are not split into body and mind. interferes with the smooth operation of the muscular and nervous systems and all the vital organs. we need to prevent the neck from contracting unnecessarily. we can consciously move our head upward. And this is only one destructive habit. And doing this means using the conscious mind to change our subconscious muscle patterns. It can lead to round-the-clock tension in some muscles. The effect of this is a compression of the spine. With every act. the customs of language entrap us much HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 15 . and from his later teaching experience. the first of a whole series that will follow if the first occurs unchallenged. was this: mind and body are inextricably bound together.

16 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . compared to the mind. quoting the ancient Greeks. if we happen to suffer from puritanical hang-ups.of the time into thinking so. the fault lies with one of those two separate halves. or higher part. Whenever we divide ourselves in two like this. Disdain for the mere "physical. in fact downright lowly. . After all. we could be finding out what we are doing that keeps us from solving our problems. we may even persist in believing that the physical business of daily existence is unimportant or at least unworthy of our serious attention. we also run the risk of never being rid of our troubles." We have something to blame. Often. the clutter of papers on the desk remains untidy. . can manifest itself in any of a thousand different ways that upset or swamp us. The leaves go unraked. into a mental part and a physical part." thus mistakenly conceived. at the same time visualizing a something mental that is embedded in a something fleshly. we tend to look down upon the fleshly part as being inferior. the kitchen mess accumulates." Or "my thoughts keep wandering. It's "that damn leg of mine. With disastrous consequences for our daily life. "A sound mind in a sound body. Instead." we glibly say. personal grooming is neglected or forgotten . the garbage is not carried out.

"but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment. the great Nobel Prize physiologist. "To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely. by stress and excess muscle tension. writing with a pen or pencil." he wrote. sitting down. getting in and out of automobiles. Adopting the Technique does not require you to embrace a new religion or far-out philosophy. directly or indirectly. in insisting upon "treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual." We can readily see why. for everything we do. It does not matter what the activity is: lying in bed. Sherrington. the effects can afford relief in a very wide range of ailments that are caused. always involves us in patterns of movement and rest. standing up. opening and shutting doors. the whole psychophysical man. unscrewing the caps of jars or uncorking bottles. once praised Alexander for his discovery. ease and endurance in everything you do—even sleeping. casual or major.Chapter 3 Bringing the Alexander Technique into Your Life Taking Alexander's discovery into your own life can mean strength." The Australian was therefore correct. Besides. reaching to a shelf. However we go through any or all these activities. he said. Sir Charles S. a new way to integrate thought with action. walking. It simply offers a different biological approach from the one you have been using. our particular patterns of move17 . closing windows.

ment and rest constitute the particular use (Alexander's word) that we make of ourselves. Bad use means employing the body in a haphazard way: one part of the body compensates at random. you will be shortening others drastically. as from a twisted ankle. Good use means moving the body with maximum balance and coordination of all parts so that only the effort absolutely needed is expended. Good or bad. So in this attempt to gain desirable results forcibly. It sometimes happens that when you experience pain anywhere. Circulation is slowed down. these conditions of excessive muscular tension are likely to exist. The object is not to learn all the proper combinations of 18 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . arthritic joints or an upset stomach. whenever you move without awareness. If you are slumped down. What Is Good Use? The key concept of "use" is perhaps the easiest way to explain the Alexander Technique. everything we do in life manifests itself in the way we "use" ourselves. but in fact this new excess tension in the joints and muscles will slow down circulation and actually prevent your body from healing itself. It's the same thing with your spine. you unconsciously tighten the painful area and often other parts of the body as well. and usually inefficiently. Sometimes nerves are pinched. you're putting unnecessary pressure on the organs so that they can't function as well. however. You do so presumably to protect the injured area by immobilizing it. Some parts of the spinal cord will then experience more pressure than others. the only possible result is that while you may be lengthening some muscles. the pressure of the body being supported by them is not evenly shared. If you try simply to push yourself erect. Indeed. When your body is erect. you simply abuse yourself in another manner. and that causes malfunctioning of the parts of the body serviced by them. it provides enough room for your organs so that your breath can massage them. for the movement of another in order to maintain balance and stability. for unless the vertebrae are stacked evenly.

or when you stand poised at the head of the stairs. however. with its accompanying hollow in the back. And your customary use of yourself will reappear immediately. Unfortunately. you are again caught up in movement. The effort to hang on to some deliberate position. Conceivably. The aim of the Technique is to allow a condition of ease throughout the body without creating any new distortions in the process." a word that ought to be jettisoned because it in no way corresponds to the conditions of real life. they drop the elevated chest and the forward curvature of the spine.muscular action needed for all that you do and then try to think of them constantly as you move. is continuous and involves both physical and mental fatigue. since its absence was based on nothing more than that transient "holding-in" known as posture. or the very moment you start descending the stairs. It is in fact quite absurd to think of attaining some ideal posture and then clinging to it through all your subsequent activity. Once you have entered the room. You are not a statue to be propped about in various juxtapositions to meet the changing requirements of whatever you are engaged in. Such a course is both impossible and unnecessary. For when they depart the parade grounds or the music hall. no matter what kind. So in learning the Alexander Technique. you must at the outset dismiss from your mind all shining examples of good posture. though. leathernecks and chorines alike let go of these strenously maintained body attitudes. you learn instead one Basic Movement that can control the normal flow of all your activity. In the ordinary work of walking and living. You Are Not a Statue Making good use of yourself by means of the Technique must never be equated with the static thing known as "posture. Through the Alexander Technique. Forget the paragons of close-order drill in the Marine Corps or the symmetrical ranks of the chorus line at the Folies Bergère. the word might apply on the rare occasions when you take a stance before coming into a room. there are BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 19 .

When you are not slumped. each illustration should be provided by stroboscopic photography or some other form of action picture. No Positions. more room is provided in the chest cavity. You will not be asked to memorize the "right" pose for every possible body position (sitting. there is no "right" pose for any position. your lung capacity is thereby diminished. standing and so on) and then go through life using these and only these poses. Think of them as having been extracted from some ongoing movement. First of all. as a result. to prevent the least trace of confusion.people who do indeed seem to be trying to preserve just such a rigid and invariant attitude through all that they do. the blurry effects of such an attempt at authenticity would nullify the purposes of useful and simple instruction. more waste materials are cleansed 20 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . However. do not look upon them as static poses or positions to be imitated. it would be different for every person on this planet because each human body is different. and even if there were. the mere act of getting out of a chair takes the body through more than a hundred positions. The Breath of Life A vital function of our body that is impaired by bad use is breathing. it may be well to state flatly what the Alexander Technique is not. Ideally. No Poses To forestall any possibility of error. They are intended only as a guide or pointer to the action described. Second. How to Look at the Pictures When you consult the photos that accompany the directions in this book. and. More air can then pass in and out of the lungs. If you slump even slightly. the positions involved in darning a sock would require a whole lifetime of memorization. This forces you to breathe with your upper chest rather than with your lower ribs and diaphragm.

from your body. With the increase in the freedom of your breathing machinery, the quality of your voice can improve.

Let It Happen
Good breathing is integral to the Alexander Technique. This does not mean that you will need to practice it in the form of separate and isolated breathing exercises. As you begin to correct your faulty use, excess muscular tension will disappear. With the release of that tension, the action of your ribs and diaphragm in breathing will automatically take care of itself. As you progress, you may find yourself yawning or emitting deep sighs. Let them happen, for they come involuntarily and are an excellent sign that you are getting rid of excess tension. You will find that breathing supports movement at the same time that movement supports breathing. This natural and inevitable orchestration of the two is very different from superimposing some artificially learned breathing pattern upon your movements. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Don't try to do anything. Let it happen.

Your Breathing Improves
Notice, when talking, whether you are breathing in through your nose or your mouth. Give yourself time to breathe. It is helpful on occasion to close your lips and allow the air to come in through your nose when you need breath. This helps to release any tightness in the throat. Many of us develop the habit of gulping or sucking in air. This tenses the throat and is accompanied by a downward pull of the head. But when you don't collapse your chest and pull down, a slight vacuum is created in the lungs, which pulls in the air for you. When you breathe normally in this way, every time stale air leaves your lungs, new air will automatically come back in. Through the Alexander Technique, you can learn to leave your breathing mechanism— your body—alone to function freely and without effort. BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 21

How We Got This Way
To be sure, in this misguided quest, the breathingexercisers and the posture-builders may really be seeking some of the benefits that are achieved by the Alexander Technique. The grace and naturalness that the Technique imparts to you will be highly noticeable. Whenever you use it, your entire body will be more erect—your chest is not collapsed, your torso does not settle in on itself. As you continue to practice, an improvement in muscle tone occurs. If such are the blessings reaped through making good use of oneself, why are they so deplorably lacking in most of us? What has gone wrong? Why so much grief physically and mentally? It is the burden of civilization's advance, Alexander believed, that has brought upon us our present deteriorated condition. Today, instead of adapting our bodies to a slowly changing terrain, we capriciously adapt a fast-changing environment to arbitrary standards of comfort (even taste). Through current upheaval, the one thing that has remained essentially the same is the structure of the human body. Prior to the development of technology, changes in the world around us took place over a span of millions of years, slow enough for us to keep pace through subtle, unconscious alterations in the body itself. But our restless civilization has brought about a revolution in our surroundings so rapid that this process of gradual development has been quite outdistanced. As a result, the world we know now is completely foreign to the one to which human beings long ago adjusted. Our life-style has become a hybrid interaction of a body, originally adapted to primitive survival, with an environment of elevators, mattresses, automobiles and comfy chairs. Our physical and social universe is radically different, and our physical equipment has been impaired in its responses to the new demands thrust upon it by contemporary living. We have to make intelligent use of ourselves,

22 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

said Alexander, if we want to meet the new conditions effectively.

Three Easy Tests
To illustrate the degenerative influence that civilized living has exerted upon the human organism, Alexander proposed three simple tests: (You are requested to interrupt your reading for a moment and carry out the following three experiments.) 1. Move your head without your shoulders. 2. Open your mouth without tilting your head back. 3. Turn out your toes without first shifting your heels. While doing each test, be alert and sensitive in registering how you move so you may catch the unnecessary movement involved.

See for Yourself
In quite the same spirit of experiment, you may now begin to notice, in the course of your daily activity, how you go about handling objects. Next time you brush your teeth, for example, stay alert and observe just how heavy the toothbrush is, how much energy is required to lift it and keep it in your hand. How much pressure is needed to brush? In the toothpaste commercials on television, it sometimes appears as though the people are trying to brush the teeth right out of their mouths. (See Fig. 8, p. 66.) You can make similar observations when you sit down to write a letter. With a little try-and-see, you can tell how much strength is actually required to hold onto the pen and get the ink to flow onto the paper. Once you consider how you actually go through any activity, you can begin to affect a change in your performance of it.

BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 23

emotional and mental. 24 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . which we will learn in this book. In curing himself of his loss of voice by noting the slight pulling backward and down of his head. but they are likewise spared its debilitating side effects. more than anything else. What is more. defeats and frustrates whatever we may intend on every level of our existence—physical.The Road to Take Animals in the wild miss out on the satisfactions. But the answer to the perilous misfunction that has befallen mankind through the anxiety and stress of modern living cannot be to call a halt to civilization. no underdoing. which blocks. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. like a cat or a dog. It is this same harmful pattern of involuntary preparation which is involved in everything we do. however." There is. No overdoing. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT UPWARD DIRECTION. the expenditure of energy in animal movement is exquisitely attuned to the requirements of what needs to be done. the German writer Heinrich von Kleist makes this point by describing how a chained bear. The human antagonist is baffled by the perfect efficiency of the beast's innate responses. and you will see a creature completely relaxed yet still capable of making sudden. cultural advantages and triumphs of civilization. In a famous allegory. may be enunciated as follows: AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. We are not about to rejoin the lower animals or "go primitive. prevents. They have no price to pay. relying on animal instinct. definite movements. 'Alexander uncovered the whole pattern of bad use. And it is this. and which is the essence of the Alexander Technique. a sane solution to our problem. which accompanied formal recitation. at rest. successfully defends itself by exerting very slight movements to deflect the thrusts and feints of a champion swordsman. The road to the recuperation of our diminished faculties. Observe even a domestic animal.

and everywhere else in this book where a movement or action is given. however. the calisthenic approach stands in direct opposition to the Alexander Technique. You are not called upon to run miles or to lift heavy weights. personal happiness. In the Basic Movement. Nothing tiresome will be required of you. joint-wrenching gyrations of any kind. in the deepest sense. The word "movement" as used here has nothing to do with the 1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4! calisthenics you did in gym class. physical freedom and. the word always refers to some movement or action of the utmost simplicity. It is true. The mere performance of this simple movement can.Chapter 4 The Basic Movement You are now ready to learn the Basic Movement that incorporates the Alexander principle in a form you can practice whenever you wish. as we shall see in the following chapter." can be performed more effectively and with much greater benefit once you learn the Basic Movement and apply its principle to them. There are no exercises in this book. 25 . ed. Not an Exercise But first a word about a word. put you on the road to a new life of health. if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity. It is in no way related to muscle-snapping. that the strenuous and repetitive exertions popularly known as "phys. This distinction is especially important because.

the sooner you will experience a new lightness and ease and a sense of real assurance in whatever you may be doing. for example." and the same format is used as a preliminary to every other movement or action in this book. This moment of selfobservation is presented under the heading "Exploring Yourself. are presently learning the Alexander Technique because it makes a real difference in crew performance. or whatever your game may be. Whether you play golf or tennis. 26 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . swim or bowl. It provides. The Basic Movement Exploring Yourself You may carry out this movement either while seated or standing. How to Start The Basic Movement is preceded by a brief inspection of your total condition while you carry out the action in your customary or habitual manner. Next follow the instructions for the Basic Movement itself. a guideline to follow: a new way of thinking and moving. We shall do it sitting. No trance: eyes open. it can undergo amazing improvement after you have bettered the use of your body in pursuing it. Some Olympic rowers. The sooner you apply to any normal activity—such as tying your shoe or lifting a bag of groceries—the Basic Movement of letting your head move up and letting your body follow. rather.The same applies to those more skilled and motivated forms of calisthenics which we call sports. It is not to be repeated mindlessly in hopes of programming yourself into some automatic routine that has nothing directly to do with daily living. Turn your head to look around you.

(Figs. 1. Notice if this upward direction of your head affects the smoothness and ease of the side-to-side motion. 8. Notice if it brings up and aligns your body. continuing to let your head ease up. then tip it down to look at the floor. Allow your whole body to follow the upward direction of your head. so that your neck lengthens above your shoulders instead of craning forward or jamming back. but that it is allowed to delicately lengthen during your head movement.) Now that you've gone through the Basic Movement once. Tip your head to look up at the ceiling. crackling sounds in your spine? Is your breathing slowed or stopped? The Basic Movement While turning your head slowly from one side to the other in order to survey the room. tip it back to look up at the ceiling. (Figs. What do you notice about the turning of your head? Do you feel any tense or tight muscles in your neck? Does your body twist about when you turn your head? Do you hear any popping. Your Whole Head You must learn to think of your head as three- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 27 .) The upward direction will keep you from cramping your neck throughout these movements.3. 7. then forward to look down at the floor.2. 5. add the Basic Movement: move your head up and away from your torso and let your body follow.See the room.) Remember to keep your eyes open and looking. the following clarification of the main words used should give you even more success the next time you do it. Next. 6. 4. Continue to allow your whole head to move up and away from your body while you perform the turning movement. (Figs. This does not mean that your body twists and turns with your head. Turn it from side to side.

Easing upward and away as you turn your head. 2.1. Beginning from a usual slump. From side to side. 28 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 3.

And tip it forward.4. 6. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 29 . Easing upward. As you tip your head back. 5.

) When you remember that your chin is part of your head. 8. 10. 30 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . sides. 9.) Often people have a tendency to lead movements with their chin. (Fig. The fact is that the spine in your neck is very near the center of your neck. (Fig. thus pulling your head back and down. not just along the back of it as many imagine. Cramping your neck unnecessarily.dimensional. you will understand that you do not need to hold your head up. When you are directed to move your head. this means your whole head. including the back. the neck is sturdy and the head rests easily on that large base as it moves. It is important that you realize how substantial a support your neck provides for your head. you will be less likely to jut it forward. 7. top and front (your face). With this in mind. the diameter of your vertebrae is larger than that of a silver dollar—not the size of a nickel or a quarter. Also.

The whole head. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 31 . 10. Jutting the chin forward needlessly.9.

13. It means the moving of your head up and away from your body. that direction is. Simple as this may seem. The Upward Direction "Upward" does not necessarily mean ceilingward. You will probably experience some sort of change or notice some difference. Because your torso is connected to your head. your body must follow. Your entire torso must be considered and no part forgotten. It begins at the base of your neck.) Remember to think of your whole body as three-dimensional. (Fig. If you remember this connection. when you allow your head to move upward. you will find that your body will automatically want to follow that upward movement. the bottom line of your buttocks. their body will curve forward or backward. includes your shoulders and ends at your hip joints.) However. remember that upward always applies to movement—wherever the top of the spine happens to be pointing—and is not a fixed position. including sides. 11. People tend to think of only one dimension when allowing their body to move upward: either their front or their back. back and front. We're aiming for as much flexibility and ease as possible. On Your Way Repeat the Basic Movement and see what happens. "upward" is where the top of your spine points. you must not forget it.) Above all. 12.Your Whole Body "Body" refers to your whole torso. and the moving of your torso up from the hips. (Fig. Upward directs a positive action in order to prevent the usual negative action of pulling the head back and down and slumping. causing unnecessary effort. When you are sitting or standing. of course. Perhaps you'll be aware that you were pushing 32 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. as you lean your body to the side. As a result. in following the instructions. up toward the ceiling.

11. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 33 . The whole body.

" 12. 73.yourself and using more effort to sit (or stand) than you are now. Or maybe you'll feel that it is easier to move your head in the way described. 34 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . although the engine always begins the movement of the train with its forward impetus is transmitted almost simultaneously to each car. there will be no time lag between the movement of the cars and engine. You might compare it to the image of a train. Or as Alexander once paradoxically described the movement: "All together one after another. Upward. The Instant Train The movement of the body following the head is fundamental to the Alexander Technique. In any case. If it is linked up properly. and the cars the remainder of the body. The engine represents the head. you will have begun the process of keeping your eyes open and observing how you move.

you are not required to take up any new position in order to correct your misuse. The lengthening of your neck when you move your head upward is tiny. obvious.How to Succeed Without Really Trying Most people learning something new are eager to discover the "right" way to do it. a very subtle and continuous movement of the head upward "only an infinitesimal amount" (as Alexander wrote from England to a man in America who was learning the Technique on his own). The Basic Movement is accomplished without any big. What matters is that you improve the process of how you move. far-reaching consequences. Here. It is a single adjustment. The Basic Movement is a first-class example of the way a very simple adjustment in the use we make of ourselves can have tremendous. there are no "right" positions. though. on the order of mil- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 35 . For as we have seen in the preceding chapter. external show.

However. they try to become human giraffes. though. Here. 36 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . some people are reluctant to believe that anything remarkable can result from the Alexander Technique unless they do something that demonstrates huge effort. It is perhaps part of our American credo to believe that only prodigious feats can produce worthwhile results.limeters. They strain their necks mightily. is one case where the big results come from a tiny change. but you will feel it in every bone of your body. But no neck-stretching whatever is required! Just a very slight movement of the head upward from the body will do the trick. Your ruler may not detect the difference.

left-right activity most of us associate with physical education. In fact. Alexander became convinced that such training would never meet the needs of people who came there in quest of physical development. any exercises we do to get in shape will likewise be carried out in a manner that is harmful.Become a Whole Person The Basic Movement you have just learned. If we comport ourselves in a manner that is harmful. updown. the repeated and accentuated performance of the prescribed movements—thus badly executed—increased the damage they were already doing themselves." the well-known nursery rhyme tells us. "There was a crooked man. are clearly of a very different order from the strenuous push-pull. "and he walked a crooked mile. If they used themselves badly in ordinary life. Some of these bestow considerable good upon us. they would continue to do so throughout their physical exertions. They are not likely to change our condition for the better. This is because they have been designed with a very different objective from that of ordinary calisthenics. and the seven supplementary Actions that will follow in Part II. Much the same is true of the numerous varieties of physical manipulation and massage that are applied to our bodies. The Trouble with Physical Exercises After visiting the gym of a leading exercise teacher in Australia one day." Just so. 37 .

Most of the time we operate our bodies on a subconscious level. we pay scant heed to the constant flow of information that is being communicated by our bodies. for example. 38 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . the Alexander Technique coordinates conscious thought with action in order that you may deal with yourself. Consider. if you are accustomed to a standard shift. think back to the last time you borrowed an automatic car and reached down for gears that weren't there. a muscle cramp. The Trance in Which We Live Unlike conventional exercise and manipulation. We continue wearing ourselves out and tearing ourselves apart from day to day because we remain in deep ignorance of our bad tension habits until we reach a crisis of pain or run into some drastic physical or emotional trouble." We simply don't get true messages from our bodies anymore. but his trouble will surely recur if the error in his swing is not corrected. How often have you driven from point A to point B without noticing what lies between or even how you got to point B. We cannot perceive the faulty way we are using ourselves because it has come to "feel right. as these bad habits have developed little by little. Another person may be oblivious of a tendency to lift her chin and jut it forward (until she sees herself on television)." ludicrously askew). Thus. some welcome temporary relief from the pains and aches caused by a faulty swing.but their intention is not to teach a better use of ourselves. In this half-conscious state in which we operate. a person may carry one shoulder higher than the other and never notice (were his shoulders to be set level for him. through alleviating treatment of this kind. Moreover. Only the very gross or screaming message—a headache. driving a car. they would now feel "wrong. Or again. so too has our sensory awareness gradually adjusted to them. Perhaps a golfer can find. We unfold the whole repertoire of our daily activity with little attention to how we are doing what we are doing. sore ligaments or illness—gets through.

in short. therefore. says Koestler. and although my foreign accent retains the specific density of pea-soup. remarks Koestler. The main component of what we perceive is the sound we think we are projecting.Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves There is still another factor at work in this universal unfamiliarity with ourselves and our functioning. according to Koestler. "The clumsy gesture is screened off from awareness by the direct impact of the image of the intended graceful movement on perception. caused by a confusion between the event as intended and the event as it really happens? How. He offers himself as an example: "I am of Hungarian origin. do we get rid of the bad habits that plague us? The Alexander Technique. All this occurs. the actual acoustic production plays a subordinate part. Perhaps no one has given a sharper and more disquieting picture of it than the writer Arthur Koestler." So too may our singing be stridently out of tune and yet sound just fine to us until a musical accompaniment pulls us back on the track. yet perceive my own voice as if it were free from it. The same applies also to our gestures and movements. People who listen for the first time to the sound of their voice played back on a tape recorder usually get a shock. because in the perception of one's own voice. but this discrepancy is masked from us by the process of hearing what we intend and not what we are in fact uttering. There may be a world of difference between what we think we hear and our performance as heard by others. meets the problem by calling BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 39 . I was virtually unaware of this till I first listened to my voice on a recorded broadcast. all the Actions in this book for learning it. and." The Crown of the Senses So how do we defeat this tendency toward what might be called a kind of wish-fulfillment in our senses. however defective and self-defeating they may be. I have a good ear for other people's accents.

" the distinguishing mark of superb physical condition. Most everyone knows something at least about this faculty. we do not have to know the names of our muscles or how to locate them on a chart. It is sometimes called the "muscle sense. jugglers or sculptors. of trying to "unscrew the inscrutable. In order to ensure that we are using our bodies properly. We use it to assess the range and force of our movements and also in adapting ourselves to the weight of anything we lift. At a UNESCO conference on brain mechanisms and awareness." though actually its sense organs may be found not only in the muscles. Clearly evident in people like circus aerialists. It is not one of the original five long ago listed by Aristotle. or the agile ease and poise of a friend in the way he handles himself in all the ordinary activities of life. It is from this sense that we are continually receiving knowledge of the gestures we make and of the pressures or tensions anywhere in our body. It is by means of this sense that we remain aware of the position of every part of our body even when our eyes are closed. one speaker even accused the others. in their concern with it. a real chance is offered for the enrichment of our entire organism. it is deplorably lacking in a very great number of us." Since it is essential in the practice of the Alexander Technique. 40 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . It is the kinesthetic sense that supplies the information we need. Whenever we admire the seemingly effortless coordination in the movements of a great athlete. but in the tendons and joint membranes as well.upon a faculty we all possess but often overlook because it is not one of the so-called "five senses" we usually talk about. we are paying tribute to it. This enricher of the whole person is considered by some connoisseurs and gourmets of good physical condition to be nothing less than "the crown of the senses." It is not really that inscrutable. or the "kinesthetic sense" as it is called. "Kinesthetic" is a cross between the words "kinetic" (motion) and "esthetic" (feeling) and means "feeling motion. the development of this sense underlies the entire program set forth in this book. but in calling upon this faculty.

we can increase the reliability of our kinesthetic sense and establish a new standard of good use. Dearborn pointed out. during the past decade due to the popular rise of the human potential movement." One trouble. Virtually every branch of that movement makes some use of body awareness. This in turn produces a harmonious interplay of all our faculties and thereby brings about the first visible fruit of our growing kinesthetic development: good muscular coordination. however.S. has come very much to the foreground in the U." heralded by Alexander. He called it "the warp of the sensation-fabric—the personality's dynamic index of its body. is that the much stronger sense experiences of light and color may drown out this subtler experience." The effective practice of the Alexander Technique makes it possible to receive increasingly subtle messages from within. Discover a World Within The "crown of the senses. get a good. as Dr. sometimes so completely that many intelligent people go through their days "wholly ignorant even of the essential existence of these warpthreads in the fabric of our conscious life. It was. Whole Person There are always two ways a person can learn to carry out any action. Part Person vs. in this way. George V. N. Through the sensitive practice of the Basic Movement and the seven Actions which build upon it. One way is to focus on the single part of the body that actually does the work. The wise and respected New England medical educator Dr. by no means entirely forgotten in earlier American efforts to promote physical and emotional fitness. The other way is to use the BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 41 . Dearborn always emphasized the important place that the kinesthetic sense holds in the life of every human being.We can feel what we are doing and. clear idea of ourselves in action.

From moment to moment. he may unwittingly raise his shoulder. enables you to allow this total pattern. during the whole time you devote to an Action. With the first method. This means using the Basic Movement. You will then discover for yourself what it means in actual practice. a person wanting to throw a ball will find that he must swing his arm. be open to any and every message of feeling that comes to you from the various parts of your body. how it feels and how it affects a person to live by means of the unique. For example. Because there are so many possible combinations of tension. but must see whatever they look at. 42 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . to control whatever you do. Staying in the Moment In carrying out the Actions that follow. He has no real awareness of the rest of himself. his body may then compensate inefficiently to keep its balance. Do not hold your breath from a sense of strain. So he swings his arm as best he can. physically-mentally unified Technique you gain from these Actions. This does not mean exerting effort throughout your entire organism in order to swing your arm. It is the kinesthetic sense which.natural integrating mechanism of the whole body. any number of things can happen that will cause more effort than necessary. all parts included and coordinated to perform the action. the Basic Movement. and when he hoists his shoulder. keep alert. Rather. in time. you swing your arm in a manner that allows your whole body to be balanced and your energy to be directed effectively. The second way of performing an action is to involve your whole person in it. You will learn directly the benefits of this regular experience of complete personal harmony. Your eyes must not become glazed.

it has become a prevalent sign of our era. stoop and wither before the onslaught of advancing years. it plays a major role in whatever we do." no longer related to income group or social status and every bit as typical of men as of women. elastic lineaments. down. is now surprisingly common at a much earlier time of life. pulls us down. lithe movement and springy step belie their actual age. unequal to the combat. Like air. An eyesore and a handicap. Indeed. That much is certainly true. But what about the rest of the theory? THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 43 . we are done in by it. We continue instead under the spell of the rather sinister and frightening idea.Chapter 6 The Technique as a Way to Stay Young The youthful manner and attractive bearing attained through the Alexander Technique should dispel once and for all the conviction that men and women must inevitably bow down. widely accepted at present. what used to be known as "dowager's hump. We have all encountered at one time or another those rare men and women whose upright bearing. However. working against us through all the years of our life. down until finally. it is self-evident that all our movements and activities are subject to gravity's pull. that the force of gravity. we tend to disregard or forget this reassuring evidence of our senses. Since our body consists of mass. sunshine and other more familiar elements. That gravity does indeed provide a persistent and unvarying element in man's ecology there can be no doubt.

" The Upright Creature Supposedly. .Why We Shrink According to a popular view. we seem peculiarly ill-equipped for maintaining an upright position. For 44 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . in every beat of our hearts. Gravity has slowly squashed them to the ground. unceasing pull upon us of this antagonistic force has been assigned responsibility for a very great number of the woes of aging. all this is the price we pay for standing erect. down. Thompson. without let-up or cease. The unflinching. But the cumulative results of a lifetime of unequal struggle can be seen in some bent-over and hobbling older people who have lost many inches. and thus being permitted to straighten out. . Down. Throughout the day. and the problem is one that has been with us ever since the forepaws of our prehistoric ancestors left the ground. when we lie in a position parallel to the ground and thus alter the effects of the ubiquitous pull. people actually lose about half an inch in height. They had even gained in height (and lost at the waist). According to the biologist D'Arcy W. we regain that lost stature. it is felt "in every movement of our limbs. down . In this view. which was partly the result of not being pulled down. it is the indomitable force which defeats us in the end. drooping mouth and hanging breasts. pitting human strength against gravity's relentless power with no chance of winning. Studies have shown that between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back in at night. During sleep. As bipeds. the quadruped is more fortunately constructed for resistance to gravity than we are. The skylab astronauts gave us yet another glimpse of this force's baneful effects when they emerged—after months of living outside it—in a remarkably unkinked condition." and "it leaves its mark in sagging wrinkles. which lays us on our death bed and lowers us to the grave. as on earth. it works its malign influence upon us. we find ourselves inextricably locked in a lifelong struggle.

Richard Selzer totaled up the outward woes he thinks indicate that our erect stance THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 45 . two-legged human race. These muscles are reflexively maintained in a state of tonus— partially contracted and ready for work—except when the body is lying completely horizontal. curved in several places. like an inverted pyramid. Our spine is flexible. Failure or defeat in any of these components adversely affects the overall struggle. the spine and the network of muscles and ligaments. The immediate battleground for humans versus gravity may be discerned throughout the musculo-skeletal system whose mainstays are the pelvis. repercussions of the conflict are felt in all the other major systems of the body. with our heavy head and shoulders weighing down the skeletal structure. deformation and distortion depending upon the disparity between the pull and each person's total power of response to it. Just standing up is a kind of acrobatic triumph involving an exact balance of varying degrees of contraction and relaxation in more than two hundred pairs of muscles.one thing. Standing or sitting. the weight of our inner organs is carried high above our center of gravity. However. Must We Fall Apart? While gravity depresses all the elements of the body. This situation is said to account for many of the chronic progressive and degenerative conditions which afflict the falteringly upright. And strain means injury. in respiration and circulation as well as in the nervous system. the greatest strain is sustained by the musculo-skeletal structure that keeps us erect. perhaps an ingenious device for cushioning shock. we appear to be top-heavy. Dr. Physiologically. Mortal Lessons. In a fierce book. but far from ideal for steadying our weight. how—in this view—can we hope to contend with gravity's pull? We are compelled to oppose its force by sheer muscular power. Our structural frame is an intricate system of articulated levers—bones and joints— that are held and moved by our muscles and tendons.

46 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . which is so popular today. Or watch a baby turn its head. their actions are beautifully free and easy. it pivots smoothly without tension. buckle and wear out.cannot successfully resist the pressure imposed upon us by gravity. slip. our vertebrae. The arches of our feet fall. We obviously had to develop a way of neutralizing the effects of gravity in order for our life to have continued on earth. Our blood gathers in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. the adventure of assuming an upright posture would probably never have been sustained if man had not become capable of it. Observe a baby come to sitting position by itself. In the very long history of walking erect. Man is a perfect match for gravity. Our hip joints grind to a stop. They move in a superb manner quite naturally. attitude and behavior may also figure in the generalized failure of our adaptation to the ordinary strain of being on the earth's surface. Mental confusion. In the first two or three years of life as they gain mobility. It does not fully or accurately represent man's complex relationship to the downward pull he experiences from the earth. must have evolved a suitable equipment and the correct mechanism for biped locomotion. How We Conquer As it happens. as Professor Tinbergen has pointed out. Selzer. From an evolutionary viewpoint. which enables us to deal handily with the earth's pull. mood. the whole body is in a system of balance. And the mechanism is by now genetic. the human species. We inherit an easy good use of our bodies. the extreme and scary picture we have just looked at. According to Dr. piled one atop the other. Our flesh pushes itself through into hernias. He found that body chemistry as well as the regulatory and coordination mechanisms of the body are all affected. feeling. is both one-sided and incomplete. and before they are physically corrupted. no strain in the back or anywhere else. This reflex of good use can be observed in infants.

The correct messages from one body part to another (coordination) are relayed and interpreted properly. the human species is constructed in a way to resist the pull of gravity effortlessly in keeping itself erect.). 1. The movement of the head leads and influences the movement of the body so that all parts (muscles) are coordinated and work in a harmonious system of contraction and relaxation. as with a leaning column or an uneven tower of blocks. tense muscles—is needed to keep it standing. the body column will be out of kilter (Fig. If the head does not initiate. We sense a new way of moving. and gravity merely compounds the problem. Rather. the reflex of our movement will be interfered with and muscle will be pitted against muscle. When arranged naturally in a sort of flexible column. A jutting part here or there creates an imbalance and. things go wrong. or shorten and arch our backs.It Goes by Itself Careful. In attempts to control ourselves. different from our previous experience of tension-filled activity. (Fig. In effect. Only those muscles which are essential to a particular action are used in that action. THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 47 . it is we who work against ourselves.) In this condition. the reflex system of the body is allowed to work. And it is because of these tense habits that it so often feels as if gravity must be working against us. 2. with its energy and movement directed up through the top of that column—the whole torso following the head—the body will work efficiently and flexibly. we shorten our necks and pull our chests down. some form of additional support—in the case of the body. detailed studies of this natural mechanism have offered a technical explanation in anatomical and physiological terms. We actually feel heavier because of pressure put on the joints by excess muscular tension. what has been discovered is that when all the body parts are balanced and integrated. When we do not trust our body's ability and interfere with this natural reflex of ease. We no longer have to depend upon large jolts or shocks from tensing muscles to tell us if something is happening.

2. The body column out of kilter.1. 48 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Energy and movement directed upward.

" But long before we heard these and similar unhelpful exhortations. Even when we think we're relaxed. is obviously an old.Never a Feeling of Strain We meet gravity by keeping our "balance. Most of us consider ourselves balanced when we stand (otherwise how could we?)." "Don't slouch. Our misuse of ourselves in all that we do is the consequence of modern living. The magnificent engineering of the human body does not require it. ourselves. Most of us are still trapped by the distant voices of parents and teachers repeating: "Stand up straight. produces this desired alignment of the total structure. But in fact we usually are holding onto something—namely." and an elementary definition of the word is: the state of not having to hold onto something in order to maintain a position. walk and move. And this muscular release goes a long way toward explaining why the Technique is effective in eliminating superfluous tension. through the tasks we were called upon to perform before we THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 49 ." "Or "Little girls don't sit like that." "Your posture is terrible. Such excess tension is unnecessary. A Future Without Fear Proper adjustment to gravity in the way we stand. The new equilibrium gives relief and freedom to dozens of muscles that were previously engaged full time in "holding on" to maintain a condition that is at best a rough and hapless approximation of true balance. muscles throughout our body are tensing—holding on—in an effort to keep us as we are. Our bone structure (skeleton) is so finely organized a system of arches and supports that it takes only a tiny contraction of muscles to maintain us in the "work" of standing. the body following. inherited form of behavior. then. our superb natural functioning had already vanished because of the way we were handled as infants. The Alexander Technique. bringing the head into real physical balance on top of the spine. through the models we encountered and imitated in early family life and school.

We are no longer the helpless playthings or victims of a hostile force from below. and through our adaptation to the furniture and paraphernalia with which we lived. or the adult of middle or advanced age.had the physical capacity or readiness. The effect is too strong for the body to resist. we violate our own natural mechanism for meeting the downward pull exerted on all forms of terrestrial life. By means of the Alexander Technique. But this need not be. By means of the Alexander Technique. The foreshortening of the back neck muscles with which we initiate our every act. we can call a halt to our customary interference with the body's natural reflexes and thus facilitate our antigravity response. 50 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . has no reason to dread that the years ahead are going to pull him or her down in a decline of slow surrender to gravity. This is why the popular picture of gravity as inescapable master and despoiler is for so many of us the stark truth. means that tension and gravity are operating in concert. we can regain our easeful place on the planet and go confidently forward with the concerns that matter in our life. The upward movement of the head followed by the body can free us to initiate whatever we choose to do in whatever manner we choose to do it. The youngster now starting out. and the entire trunk and spine are slowly compressed. In the way we misuse ourselves. and which Alexander pinpointed as the root of our difficulties. We can reverse that trend once and for all the moment we decide to change our bad use of ourselves and reinstate our pristine grace.

P A R T II The Practice of the Technique How to Do It .

Often the Basic Movement within the Action description is italicized. which will show you how to apply the basic principle to all your movements. They do not employ anything in the way of athletic equipment or apparatus. to refer to it before undertaking a new movement. but all the Actions. Each Action leads to the next according to a definite plan. Each step consists of three parts: (1) a preliminary exploration of your personal condition before you begin. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. which was given in Chapter 4. (2) the Action itself. are extensions and developments of the Basic Movement. and (3) suggestions for how it may be applied to everyday life. UPWARD DIRECTION. That movement contains the key to the whole T e c h n i q u e .The Seven Actions An Effortless Program The following chapters present a simple step-by-step program of seven Actions for learning the Alexander Technique. without exception. doing 52 . No Dumb-Bells. therefore. in your kitchen or office. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT It is advisable. (When the weather permits. You can do them anywhere: at home or at work. w h i c h as we h a v e s e e n i s : AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. No Leotards The Actions in this program are simple. Keep in mind these and other italicized instructions throughout the Action as they are essential to the success of your experimenting.

them outdoors will provide the additional benefit of fresh air.) The Actions require no gym shorts, or leotards or other special outfits. Street clothes, office clothes—any clothes you happen to be wearing—are fine, and no change of apparel will be necessary afterward. Whatever clothes you do wear should, however, allow you sufficient leeway so that you are not restricted in your movements and do not feel hampered in your breathing. If your clothes are not decently comfortable, you may want to loosen your shirt collar or open your belt a notch. Simply do whatever is needed to allow you to be freer in moving about and less confined in your breathing.

A Way to Begin
Read the instructions for each Action slowly until you have an idea of what it is. (If you prefer, have someone read the instructions aloud to you.) Then proceed to carry them out in the manner described. Sometimes the instructions are given in metaphorical language to convey what is wanted. Thus, when you are instructed to "direct your energy upward," don't worry about a scientific meaning: simply follow the instruction! You needn't do a great many Actions at one session; you may prefer to do them gradually. For example, you may do an Action for a day or so, noticing throughout the rest of the week how that particular movement appears when it shows up in your everyday activities. Then go on to the next Action. Initially, follow them in the order given, as each movement leads to the next according to a definite plan. Some people may prefer to do several a week. Be your own judge of your particular rate. Later, you can always return to a given Action and see if you can discover something more in it. However often you repeat them, you will always derive some benefit, provided the element of awareness is there. Never do them mechanically; you are not a machine. Indeed, treating yourself THE SEVEN ACTIONS 53

like a machine is the bane of what is ordinarily meant by "exercise." Paying attention to what is happening every moment of this program reeducates your senses and muscles.

For Your Enjoyment
Although a conscientious attitude is necessary, it is not necessary to drive yourself to the limits of your endurance. Indeed, that is an entirely wrong approach. It is far more beneficial to do an Action sensitively three or four times, without strain or tension, than to do it automatically many times. Remember, you are not in competition with anyone. You are doing the Action only for yourself, for your own good. If you rush through a meal, you do not give yourself the opportunity to taste what you are eating or to digest the food properly. Ill-digested movement, like ill-digested food, is less beneficial to you. You will enjoy the Actions more if they are done in a spirit of experiment and play. You should even allow yourself a little time in which to feel and enjoy the aftereffects of each Action. Do not rush from one directly into the next. Tall, short, thin, fat, lanky or padded, whatever the proportions of your body and whatever your age, there is nothing to prevent you from learning these Actions and doing them with enjoyment. You will adjust them to your own body as you go along.

Nine Rules to Follow
1. Your "head" means the whole three-dimensional globe—not just your face or chin or some other part of it. (See Fig. 9, p. 31.) 2. Your "body" means the whole torso. (See Fig. 11, p. 33.) 3. "Upward" indicates a direction, not a fixed place. (See Figs. 12, 13, pp. 34 and 35.)

54

THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

4. Refer to the Basic Movement (pp. 26-27) each time you proceed to a new Action. 5. Perform each Action at your own pace, not in the fastest way possible. How is what matters. 6. Stay alive: Keep breathing and seeing the world around you. There is no reason to hold your breath or go glassy-eyed. 7. Do not worry about executing the Actions "correctly." It is not a question of doing them the "right way," but rather of discovering greater flexibility and freedom in your movements. 8. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. 9. Perform each Action as though for the first time.

THE SEVEN ACTIONS 55

don't change your position. Now that you've begun to think about how you are using your head. Notice whether or not you are able to move your head more easily and let your head move up. Repeat three or four times. sore muscles or stiffness.) While allowing your head to continue 56 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Let your whole head move up and away from your body and pivot on the top of your spine (top of your neck). Do you really need to use your body as well as your neck to turn your head? Lean forward and then sit back in the chair. Your neck will twist a little to let your head turn farther to the right or left. Note any sensations of which you are aware. include your body in that upward movement and lean forward. such as a popping or crackling noise in your spine.Action 1 Leaning Forward and Backward Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair and turn your head from side to side and then up and down to look around the room. but don't force your head around. What parts of you tense in order to move forward and then back? Do you push yourself forward instead of letting your hip joints simply hinge? Do you hold your breath? Applying the Basic Movement Still sitting. 1. but look around the room by turning your head. Involve your neck muscles as needed. (Fig.

Try both. 1. reaching to turn the T. Applications to Daily Life Some examples of leaning forward and back: tying your shoe while seated. 2. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 57 . 2. then let your body follow that motion. find out the difference between pushing your head up with your body and following the upward motion of your head. on or off from your chair. In leaning forward. (Fig. let your body follow upward as it leans forward in space.V. toward the floor. Lean forward by lengthening upward. lighting someone's cigarette from a seated position and eating at the table. Unnecessary pushing with your body.) If you have difficulty moving without pushing. tip your head forward.upward and away from the top of your spine. Keep your seat. simply bend at the hips to lean forward.

) Probably the easiest way to eat soup is to lean forward effortlessly (by following your head up) and then let your torso curl slightly to bring your mouth closer to the bowl. The tendency is to collapse the chest and push the chin toward the bowl in order to avoid spilling the soup. (Fig. 5.) Then experience getting out of that position by first becoming aware of a real connection be- 58 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE ." one of my teachers would often say. (Fig.) You will also appear more graceful and eliminate the balancing act. The next time you discover yourself in a slump. 4. How to Get Out of a Slump "Sometimes you just want to have a good old slump. (Fig. 6.Eating Soup Especially watch what happens when you eat soup. pull down a little more than you normally would. (Fig. 3.) You may have tried the opposite strategy: sitting very straight and trying to balance the spoon all the way to your mouth in an effort to appear graceful.

20-22. You can do this anytime you find yourself slouching. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 59 .) Greater freedom in breathing brings greater freedom in speaking. Do you leave them free or do you pull them down? Now think of moving your head up and away from your body and letting your body follow that direction while you speak. Pulling down. 5. Stiff. your body following up after it while you lean forward and then back. let the upward energy continue. Then begin to let your head move up delicately. You've achieved a little more ease just by moving. you may have noticed a change in your breathing. 4. 7. (Fig. As you talk. Try reading aloud from a book and see if you can notice what you do with your head and neck. 3. straight and awkward. While you have been learning to follow the upward direction of your head with your whole body.tween your whole head and whole body.) Note the change that has taken place as you emerge from your slump. (See pp. Easing upward. The Way You Talk How you talk is affected by what you do with your head.

The slump. it usually indicates that you hold tension there when you speak. You can change this by allowing your body to follow the upward motion of your head. The ease of your head also helps your lower jaw to release. When you have difficulty moving your jaw in this way. very gently place your fingertips on your chin just below your lower lip. 7. leaving the jaw muscles loose. 60 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .6. You are therefore using more effort than you need to for speaking. Now open and close your jaw with your hands. To check the flexibility of your jaw. Easing upward. with your thumbs on the underside of your jaw.

you can try it standing. (Figs. 1. legs included. Apply the Basic Movement Place your hands on the tops of your thighs. Let your head begin easing away from your body. Do you tense your neck or jut your chin forward? Do you lean forward or backward with your upper torso? What parts of your body besides your arms are involved in this movement? Perhaps there are other things that you'll notice. In other words.Action 2 Moving Arms Exploring Yourself Do this one while sitting. 2. While your neck lengthens and your body follows the upward motion of your head. At first. do the movement easily enough to notice what you do with your body and head. When your arms are 61 . Then bring them down again. later. what you do with the remainder of your body. Every part of your body is related to every other part in movement. Starting with your arms at your sides. let your arms lengthen out through your fingertips. palms resting down. 3. while you lift your arms will affect the ease and efficiency with which you can move them. lift both over your head. Leave your hands there and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. continuing to pay attention to your head and body. Then try moving them quickly and in several different ways.) Move your hands along your legs toward your knees.

) Think of each shoulder moving to the side upward and outward from the body to prevent any unnecessary tightening there. 4. (Fig. (Figs. Repeat the movement of raising your arms. 7. shoulders or neck to move your arms. bend your elbows and bring your hands back to your upper thighs. When your hands touch your knees. lift them over your head.straight. 5. adding to it the new direction for your shoulders. 6. During this entire sequence.) As with your head and body. although you can allow them to move. Beware of pulling down or tightening your chest. let your arms lengthen and let your head rest lightly on the top of your neck. Then let your arms come back down in front of you. Applications to Daily Life What usually happens is that people shorten most of the muscles of any limb or any part of the body to move that part 62 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . you needn't force your shoulders to move this way.

pulling the upper arm toward the shoulder. 2. That locks the elbow joint.or to bend a joint. While your body follows your head up. let your arms lengthen. That takes a lot of extra work. 3. In the course of your daily activities. to bend the elbow the way most of us do. Then we unconsciously select the proper muscle to do the bending and use that muscle to work against the rest of the muscles. we make a tiny jerk of the arm. which are shortening. 1. For example. notice how you reach to pick up and use an object. MOVING ARMS 63 . you will be able to avoid a lot of excess tension that would otherwise occur in your shoulders and neck. Brushing Your Teeth A good example of how most people do more work than they need to is brushing teeth. and most people do it unwittingly. By watching how you use your arms. Ask yourself if the energy you use is really appropriate to how light a toothbrush is and the amount of pressure you need to apply to your teeth.

6.4. 5. 64 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . No need to pull down and tighten.

) 7. Then let your head ease up and your body follow and see if you can allow your arm to float up to the knob by lengthening out through your fingertips. Do a little experimenting to see how much strength is actually required to reach out to the knob and take hold of it. which simply adds an unnecessary restriction to your freedom of movement. 9. (Fig. give it some thought. (Fig. (Figs. See if you can make it easier. 8. 10. Opening a Door You can make similar observations when you open a door. 11.Next time you brush. Your shoulders move upward and outward. Also notice what you do with your other arm and your shoulders.) There is a tendency in standing activities like this one to lock your knees. MOVING ARMS 65 .) Also note if you are overdoing the action by reaching out toward the door long before you get there.

think a little and notice what you are doing with yourself. The body following the head upward. Pulling down. If you are tense and nervous. 9. Let your head move up and your arms lengthen and hold the child with the 66 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . With Children The way you use your arms in handling a young child will definitely affect how that child moves. especially children. a child can feel it in the way you touch him. Next time you pick up your son or daughter.8. The amount of ease you have in your own body affects almost anyone you touch.

When a six-month-old child is brought up by pulling on his arms. least amount of effort needed. an undue amount of tension is produced in his back and shoulders. Also important is exactly what part of the child you hold when you lift him or help him to walk or to sit. if the child brings himself to sitting. When you support a child with your hands in helping him to sit or stand. Overdoing. he uses his whole body in a system of balances with no tension in his back or anywhere else. support him at the torso. Lengthening. The amount of ease from you that reaches the child will influence him to calmer and less resistant behavior.10. Do not inject any effort into the easy movement the child already possesses. MOVING ARMS 67 . which is maintained while the baby sits. 11. On the other hand.

4. (Figs. begin to walk. As you start walking again. 3. then shoulders following. (Figs. stopping and starting several times until you feel that you have made some discoveries about your usual walk. with each step forward consisting of an awkward fall on that foot. Which part of your body leads as you walk? Stop. the upward movement of your head and torso will move you forward. then head. step out with your right foot and walk forward.) Stop and start again several times. Notice in which direction your energy moves. 2. bend your right knee. shift your weight onto your left foot. hips forward. From a standing position. Applying the Basic Movement Begin standing.Action 3 Walking with Ease Exploring Yourself Find a room that has some open space enough to walk around in comfortably. note what part of your body begins the motion and which direction you move in first: side to side? backward? forward? Continue walking for a few minutes. It will help if you start 68 . you do not need to lean or fall forward.) When walking. 1. As you let your head move upward and away from your body with your torso following. This will allow you to move as a unit rather than in disconnected sections—for example.

Walking with ease. WALKING WITH EASE 69 .2.1.

Moving in disconnected sections.3. 70 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .

4. WALKING WITH EASE 71 . head dropped. with hips forward. Awkward.

Instead. (There is naturally a slight. 6.) Jogging and Running With any degree of speed. Each time you start. For once I began walking by the Alexander Technique.) In running. that I had to stretch my legs to get them down there. therefore. I felt that my feet would no longer reach the floor. (Fig. I discovered I was no longer pushing into my hips toward the floor on every step.with both feet under you and your weight evenly distributed. there's often a tendency to pull the head back and down. 5.) 72 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Place your fingers on the front side and thumbs on your upper buttocks. To test this for yourself. Notice whether your hips shift from side to side or up and down. notice whether your head continues to ease up as you walk. walk around the room. You'll be pleased at the gain in lightness and ease. I discovered my old habit had involved sinking into my hips and throwing myself off balance every time I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. see that you ease your head upward and allow your body to follow up after it. Remember that walking and easing upward happen at the same time. Applications to Daily Life My first experience with walking by means of the Alexander Technique was new and strange to me. whether you start at a gallop or more gradually accelerate from a walk to a run. putting your hands at the spot on each hip where your leg bends. infinitesimal undulation of the hips forward and back when you walk—unless you tense up and interfere with it. (Fig. I was letting my body glide along at a constant distance from the floor while continuing to explore the act of walking. Avoid thinking of moving your head upward and then walking as two separate actions.

Downward pressure. WALKING WITH EASE 73 . 7. Only when he is willing to let his head move up and his body follow. He will then have a true one-piece swing. shoulders easing out. 8. (Fig.) This important advantage is often sacrificed in the supposed interest of power. the upright stance provides flexibility in the shoulders and the torso and makes possible the maximum control over the swing. Easing upward.Playing Golf In golf. 6. The golfer thus compacts his body. will he maintain an upright stance and his arms have the greatest flexibility possible. pressing in and down to brace himself in order to swing. (Fig. the golfer is getting in his own way. However. His whole body will become involved in the swing. 5. it is the speed of the club head and not the force with which it is swung that makes the ball travel farthest. which helps increase the speed and control of it. With a compacted approach.) Otherwise he fears he cannot swing hard enough.

Lengthening upward and outward.7. 74 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .

8. Pulling down. WALKING WITH EASE 75 .

Applying the Basic Movement Still stabilizing yourself when you need to. (Fig. 2. As your body continues upward. do you release it and drop it easily or do you reach at the floor with your foot and tense the muscles in your leg as you lower it? Once again take note of what your head and body have been doing. 4. 1. Rest one hand on it lightly.) Avoid sinking into the leg on which you are standing (Fig. Does your right lower leg hang as freely from your knee as it can or is it tense? Do you lift or move your right hip unnecessarily? When you lower your leg. Take note of how successful you are at balancing on one leg. bend your right knee and lift your right leg until your thigh is about parallel with the floor. Lift your right leg till your thigh is parallel to the floor.) or lifting the hip of the leg being lifted.Action 4 Moving Legs Exploring Yourself Stand next to a firm waist-level surface. Lift and lower your right leg several times. Move your head and look around the room. you may use it to balance yourself during this exploration. let your head ease upward and away from your body and let your body follow that motion.) 76 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. 3. Now lower your leg down to the floor. (Fig.) Imagine a line drawn from one hip to the other and keep that line parallel with the floor.

1. MOVING LEGS 77 . Lift your leg.

Lift your other leg by bending the knee while letting your head and body 78 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Before you shift any of your weight onto it. first make sure the whole sole of your foot is touching the floor. It should be free enough so that if someone were to push it lightly. then move your head and body upward as your weight shifts to that leg.Now let your raised leg swing forward and back freely from your knee down. Then gently release that leg to the floor. it would swing like a pendulum until it lost momentum. Push your lower leg with either hand instead of using your muscles to swing it.

Then shift your weight from the back foot to the front by moving your head away from the top of your spine and letting your body follow that upward motion over your foot. The important 2. On each step. 3. The line of the hips is parallel to the floor.continue upward. allow your foot to come to the floor in front and to the side of the foot that supports you. then gently release at the hip joint until your foot touches the floor again. Lifting the hip needlessly. Avoid sinking into the hip. 4. Let your lower leg swing freely. lift your leg a shorter distance so that finally you will be walking easily. The next time you repeat lifting one of your legs. MOVING LEGS 79 .

thing is to discover how to allow your body to go upward and forward over your legs instead of being carried by them like dead weight. So the direction of energy is often downward when a person climbs stairs. How much effort is necessary to get up to the next step? A typical attitude held is that a person must push downward in order to move up to the next step. Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs Many students of the Alexander Technique find that walking up or down stairs makes them realize how much less effort is needed when directing their energy upward. These attitudes generally involve erroneous judgment of how much effort is required to perform a task or how their bodies must work to do it well. 5. Upward direction. The error occurs when a person doesn't experiment with his attitude—doesn't try out easier ways to do the job. Examine your attitude toward climbing stairs. 80 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .) The problem occurs Downward direction 6. People have pre-set attitudes toward almost every physical task they perform. (Fig.

(Fig. 8.during the shift of weight after the foot has been lifted to the next stair. Avoid freezing your gaze. In going up an incline.) Walking down stairs is often done with equal inefficiency.8. Most people place all their weight onto the forward foot before straightening the leg. MOVING LEGS 81 . Easing upward. 7. To move down a staircase. 6. and the effort involved in straightening the leg with most of the body weight on it is exhausting. (Fig. apply the same principles. Pulling down. place your foot lightly on the step and gradually straighten your leg as you follow your head upward and forward to move your body above that stair. nor do you need to jump from foot to foot. When you are walking up or down stairs. allowing your head to move upward and your body to follow. simply allow your knee to bend forward as you follow your head upward. To climb stairs the Alexander Technique way.) There is no need to keep the muscles of your knee in constant tension to serve as a brake. which requires extra work in order to maintain balance and control. usually because it is never approached consciously. 7. you can still look down at the stairs to see where you are stepping.

See if you are locking your ankle joint at the top of the movement—with heel as high as possible—and at the end of the movement—with foot flat on the floor. Applying the Basic Movement Begin as before with your feet at least five inches apart and pointing forward in whatever position is most comfort- 82 . in the center. Notice whether or not the movement is smooth. This indicates excess tension and that you are tensing the muscles around your ankle. on the outside or evenly across the front of your foot. lift each heel off the floor and put it down again. such as a car jack. Very slowly. as is most desirable? Do you have to tense your thigh or calf to lift your heel? Also try slowly lifting your toes off of the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. Leave the ball and toes of your foot on the floor. You may notice that as you move your ankle. rest your feet on the floor about five inches apart and pointing forward. where does the pressure on the ball of your foot fall? Is it under your big toe.Action 5 Heel and Toe Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair. it moves as though it were on a ratchet. one at a time. Look for the same indications of freedom or tension. in little jerks. When your heel comes up. up and down.

When you understand how easing your head upward and letting your body follow affects the movement of your ankle and every other part of your body. Keep the ball of your foot on the ground and spread your toes. If you concentrate solely on your ankles to the exclusion of the rest of your body.able. But something constructive is happening. (Fig. Think of your whole leg getting longer. be unchanged or become tiring. but rather to allow it to be its full length and free of tension. See if you can find the most efficient way (the one involving the least tension) to raise and lower your heel. The body's motions can now be consistent from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Remain aware of the relationship between your head and body. except your heel. As you continue. It will either become easier. Now see what happens when you repeat this action. Now lift your toes off the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. Avoid contracting the muscles of your thigh by continuing to lengthen your leg as your left heel comes very slowly off the floor as far as it can. it will be harder to move them freely. let your toes come back to the floor. (Fig. you are becoming aware of how you move your ankle. 1. and let the movement of your ankles fit in with it. let your head ease upward and follow it with your body. you will begin to improve your use of yourself. then let the remainder of your foot. This does not mean stretching your leg. Let your toes bend slightly up from the floor. include your legs in your awareness. release your ankle and continue lengthening your bent leg. Then stand up and walk around to see what changes have occurred. between your hip socket and your knee and between your ankle and your knee. (Fig. There is no set way to do it. Lengthen your leg all the way from heel to hip. Now as you let your head move upward and away from your body and allow your body to follow. 2. follow upward. HEEL AND TOE 83 .) Then as you let your heel very gently down to the floor.) In order to begin and complete this movement. 3.) Sit comfortably. Repeat with your other foot.

Foot flat on floor pointing forward.Applications to Daily Life Freedom in your ankles is essential for efficient and easy walking. 84 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . the upward direction of your head and body. Generally. but there is no need to focus on them except when doing this Action. 1. will give you added freedom of motion. now including your legs and feet.

3.2. HEEL AND TOE 85 . Lift your toes. Lift your heel.

away from your body. As you release the muscles around your knees. Let your feet be as close to parallel as is comfortable. keeping your body perpendicular to the ground. Instead. Then straighten your legs and return to the standing position. Notice where you feel any pressure on your hips or legs.Action 6 Knee-Bending Exploring Yourself Stand with your feet a shoulder's width apart (from eight to eighteen inches). (Fig. which creates more pressure than is necessary. Your legs should continue to lengthen as your knees bend. Are you bending at the hips and ankles? Repeat this until you are clear about how you are bending your knees. you will feel no pressure or strain on your knees. Applying the Basic Movement Allow your head to move delicately upward. Notice what if anything you do with your head and your body. Make sure 86 . As your knees bend. Bend both knees until they are directly above your big toe. and allow your body to follow. make sure they bend directly above each foot.) A common tendency is to think of the knees as moving downward. let them go forward. When you are successful with this Action. continue to follow your head upward with your body and without tightening your legs. Include your legs in the easing so that they lengthen and lighten. 1.

1. KNEE-BENDING 87 . Release knees forward.

rather. 3. Rather than pushing your body back up with your legs. Keep your body sense alert so that you can tell if at any point you are tensing your knees. No need to lean forward. it is part of the movement 2. (Fig. 2. 88 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .you release your hip joints so that your body does not tilt backward when your hips lock (Fig.).). 3. but remains perpendicular to the ground. Don't let your old habits interfere with your new way of bending. let your head and body ease upward from your legs and let your knees follow. No need to tilt back. Applications to Daily Life The simultaneous bending of both knees rarely occurs by itself in everyday activity. or forward if needless extra effort is used in bending your hips (Fig.) Place a mirror at your side to monitor this movement. 1.

If you're a dancer. 4. stay upright and bend your knees to lower yourself to the level you need. (Fig. The act of walking is greatly influenced by the amount of flexibility in the leg joints. Instead of going forward by bending your back and hunching your shoulders (Fig. KNEE-BENDING 89 . doing dishes and ironing are examples of such activities. The greatest value of this Action is that it frees the hips and knees. When people bend to pick up things. Pulling down.of sitting and standing. 5. carpentry.) 4.). knees bent. 5. you will encounter a variation of it in the plié. a freedom most people need. and do the work with their legs as they should instead of their backs. Working at a low counter. Easing upward. that movement is present even though their feet may be positioned differently. Knee-bending is also the most efficient way of approaching any activity in which you are standing and must lean over to work.

ACTION 7 Standing Up and Sitting Down

Exploring Yourself
In Action 1, you learned how to lean forward without pushing forward. Now get up from a chair, noticing what your body must do in order to stand. When leaning forward in order to stand up, do you use more effort than when you merely lean forward in a chair? No more effort is actually needed. Now sit down from a standing position and notice what happens to the relationship of your head to your body. Do you freeze your head or any part of your body while you sit? Repeat these two Actions, noting everything that is involved in sitting and standing.

Applying the Basic Movement
Standing Up. Sit in a chair of average height. Begin by becoming aware of what you do with your head and your body. Turn your head from side to side and allow it to move up and away from your body. As you become aware of the
upward direction, lean forward by following your head with

your body. Continue following as you lean forward until your buttocks come off the chair. (Fig. 1.) As you lean forward, "upward" becomes diagonal from the chair, not skyward. As soon as your weight is on your feet, you have completed the movement.
90

1. Following your head upward.

STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 91

Sit back in the chair and repeat this movement several times, noticing what you do in order to come to your feet. Discover how to do the movement in one flowing motion with the least possible effort. Often people discover that they are giving a little push, a little tightening, just before they leave the chair. There are many people who at first feel that this little push is absolutely necessary but soon discover it isn't when they let their bodies follow their heads. Having made a slight improvement in the flow from sitting to getting your buttocks off the chair, go all the way to standing the next time you do it. "Upward" will continually change in relation to vertical as you fold forward. Notice whether you continue to follow your head or whether you change direction and push yourself up. (Fig. 2.) Beware of trying to swing yourself to your feet. (Fig. 3.) NOTE: When you stand, it is necessary to use your thigh muscles to some extent, so rather than concentrate on your legs, observe what you must do with your head and body to gain the most efficient use of your legs. After you have come to a standing position, your head continues upward and your body continues to follow it. There is no reason to abandon that upward direction and collapse after you have stood up. (Fig. 4.) Sitting Down. In the act of sitting, the advantage of following your head with your body is that you have control of your balance as you sit. An important idea to grasp about sitting down is that you must continue to follow your head upward with your body. If you let all your joints fold as you sit, and direct the energy upward to relieve pressure on the joints instead of tensing to keep from falling, you will not have to work as hard. As you stand in front of a chair, get your head and body going upward. As soon as you feel pressure taken off your legs, release your leg joints and let them fold. Remember to let your hips bend as well so that you lean forward as you approach the chair. (Fig. 5.) If this is confusing, stand up again, noting how far you fold forward as you stand. Sitting down is the same movement in reverse. 92 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

Beware of swinging up. Beware of pushing. 3.2. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 93 .

continue easing upward. Once standing. 94 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .4.

5. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 95 . Bending the joints to sit.

shoot up.) Without even thinking about it. reach out with your arms or perform any other variation on the movement of standing. You will still have the flexibility to twist and turn your head. though.Applications to Daily Life Of the movements we repeat most often. And you can do it without the extra effort of forcing or tensing your muscles. one that uses the whole body is the movement from standing to sitting and vice versa. you can avoid the shifts in direction and stand up in one easy flowing motion. push down. Most people drop themselves into a chair and push themselves out. many people divide the movement of standing into steps: lean forward. 2. then folding into the chair to sit. How many people have you seen who push their knees down with their hands in trying to stand. straightening the joints and rebalancing the weight on the feet to stand. But if you can learn to follow your head with your body. 96 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Most of us complete this action many times a day in an uncountable number of ways and positions. knees and ankles. Whichever way it is done. when they actually need their legs to go up? (Fig. It is one of the best movements you can do to explore coordination of your whole body. it is all the same basic movement: bending at the hips. They go through a sequence that resembles shifting gears in a 1950 pickup.

Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. (Fig. The point of it all is to teach you to let your head and body ease upward during any movement. Plan to use this space whenever you want to do this activity. spread-eagle fashion.) More realistically. 1. Ideally. Lie down.A Short Daily Routine A Time for Rest The experiments you've been doing thus far have been designed to teach you conscious control of yourself. Begin by finding a place that is comfortable. or outward. directly above your feet. Putting your feet farther apart is helpful. your knees will tend to fall toward each other. There is one activity you can use daily to reinforce the process of lengthening in movement. relatively quiet and can be used regularly. your feet should be a shoulder's width apart and your knees balanced freely. 1. See if you can get your knees to fall inward rather than outward. 97 .

though you'll soon be able to rest without one. warmer More than likely you'll notice the same things from day to day. write down the things you noticed during each session. In that case you do not need to write your notes but can use your memory instead. (When you are feeling extremely tense. so you can compare your awareness from one week to the next. short though it may be. Let your arms rest easily on the floor at your sides. but continue to make note of them each time. feet on the floor. or bend them at the elbows and rest your hands comfortably on your stomach. make a mental note of your body's condition. Simply lie there for two to five minutes. For example: Pressure across the back of my hips Tingling in my right knee Pain in my left upper back Sensation along the left side of my neck The floor is cold on my back My breathing moves my stomach The small of my back isn't touching the floor Feeling a little angry at first Cold fingers Felt calmer at the end. you may need up to twenty minutes. What is important here is that you have begun to spend a period every day. Keep your eyes open. As you learn to direct energy upward and to move with greater freedom. on body maintenance. from "I have too many important things to do. Afterward. then make minor adjustments." to 98 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Make yourself comfortable on your back.) As you lie there. A two-inch-thick pillow under your head is permissible. and too many responsibilities. You may also be able to remember all these sensations.Let your feet rest parallel to each other on the floor and about two feet away from your buttocks. it will become easier to lie down this way. When you have made a change in your belief system. for me to be spending time on myself. If any of these positions creates undue pressure.

With the back of your head touching the floor at all times. front and back. slowly lower your body until your hips are on the floor again. After nodding. Again. With your feet firmly on the floor. let your head come to rest in a position where your neck. chin toward your chest and then back tip from your chest. Let your shoulders widen and open. will feel slightly longer. 2. front and back. lift your hips up from the floor. 2. Roll your hips up. Then starting at the middle back. The lift continues to the middle of the back. After you've taken this thoughtful rest for a few minutes. If that should happen. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 99 . You don't need to push your body into changing. your head continues to move delicately away from your body. (Fig. but because of friction with the floor you feel stuck at first." you can give yourself the opportunity to improve your performance of any activity."time spent on myself is as important as any other time. You may. 1. Do the same with your left shoulder.) 2. let your head move away from your body and let your body lengthen from buttocks to shoulders. the shoulder. move your head by nodding it. several times. As you release it back to the floor. 3. find that your body does begin to lengthen. move it slightly out from your body. All the while you are doing this. however. Lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling. seems to have some length. do the following series of movements to allow your body to continue lengthening.

Let your other arm rise the same way. as that begins to lengthen your neck. Be careful not to increase the pressure of your head against the floor. (Fig.Now that you do not feel stuck to the floor. Find a way to move without jerking or setting (tensing) your body. 3. Roll it from side to side a few times. following your hand and bending your elbow. Continue to experiment with moving your head. Permit your shoulders to continue easing outward from your body. (Fig.) Straighten your arm. There is no need to tense any part of your body to start the movement. beginning the movement by easing your head upward. Use the release of tension to move your head. Notice whether or not you press your head into the floor or lift it off the floor slightly to move your arm. Move your head by letting it ease away from your body and. Make sure you move your arm without a jolt or locking any part of it. Try doing fast movements with the least amount of tensing. Rotating Your Head See how easily you can rotate your head from side to side. Bend it and curve it any way you wish. Observe whether any other part of your body tightens or moves as you roll your head. Pay attention to what you do with your head and body as you move your arm. bending your wrist (Fig. 4. First let your hand float from the floor. Very gently lengthen out through your fingertips. you're ready to experiment with some movements in the lying-down position.) Then allow your lower arm to float up. 5. roll your head from side to side. rolling it from side to side. All of the movements can be effortless.) Finally your upper arm can follow the floating movement and your whole arm will be above your body. Then slowly and gently move both arms in every which 100 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Moving Your Arms Lift your arms one at a time. Any movement can be done by letting your head ease upward and your body follow.

A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 101 . 4. Move your whole arm.3. Then the lower arm moves. First move your hand. 5.

7. lengthen it toward your elbow. Then let your lower arm follow and. Return always to the bent-knee position. 102 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Now lift your left foot again and bring your leg toward your chest. (Fig. Direct the energy up through your bent knee toward the ceiling.) Your knee will travel through a slight arc. allowing your head to move away from your body as your body follows. As you let it down gently. finally. As your leg moves away from your chest again. your hand. See what happens when you move your arms quickly and sharply. Bring your leg toward your chest.) Let your right leg straighten in the same manner. 6. back and whole 6. let your left foot slide along the floor away from your body until it is straightened and fully on the floor. body and arms. There's no need to push it away from your body. first allow your upper arm to come to the floor.way. Lift one foot off the floor by bringing your leg toward your chest. Whenever you let your arms return to the floor. continuing the movements of ease. The object is to learn to move your legs with the least amount of tightening in your stomach. Then place your foot on the floor again. Don't interfere with the freedom you've created in your head. (Fig. Moving Your Legs Next lift your legs one at a time. Do this a couple of times with each leg. noticing where you tighten and observing whether or not you tense your head as you move your leg.

9. doing the same. Seated it's easy to stand simply by following your head with your body. Roll to the opposite side in the same manner. Draw your knees up again. let your head go outward from the top of your spine and permit your body to follow. neck and torso. If you want to bend over as you come up. Now straighten up. 8. causing your body to roll until you are lying on your side. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 103 . Sitting Up To sit up from the lying position. To do this. your head doesn't necessarily have to be the highest part of your body as you stand. roll onto your side. one at a time. (Fig. let your knees come to the floor. while thinking of your legs lengthening outward through your knees. Allow the ease to continue in your head. Use the arm closer to the ceiling to push on the floor in front of your chest.) Now you should be sitting. Always let your head and neck be free.) As your head continues to move.) Then roll onto your back by moving your head first and letting your whole body follow.body. (Fig. it is essential to let your head continue moving instead of locking in place. Remember. Rolling onto Your Side Let your knees fall slowly and easily to one side. As you sit up. 9. 7. Let your head move away from your body and let your body move with it. let your head begin rolling toward the same side. (Fig. The leg is straightened.

Let your head roll to the side. Then let you legs straighten out and rest on the mattress as you continue to let your head move away and your body to follow it! If you must sleep on your side. Your knees roll to the floor. a few adjustments will 104 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 1. is better than a stiff or bouncy one. Having a good soft pillow that forms to your head. When you first lie down. The best way to sleep is on your back unless you have specific physical problems that prevent this position. Restful Slumber Sometimes we do not get the full benefit of a good night's sleep because we continue so many of our habits of tension while we sleep. 9.). use the position of rest described above (Fig. or no pillow at all.8.

10. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 105 . 11. Bunch your pillow under the side of your head so that your neck is straight as it would be in standing.10. make this position more advantageous. such as a sit-up. If you slept on your back. avoid doing any movement. 11. Lengthening. that can shock your body with exaggerated muscle action.). This will keep your body from collapsing onto the shoulder that rests on the mattress and will prevent your neck from cramping (Figs. and let it bend at the elbow.). Then lay your top arm on the side of your body. Cramped. collapsing onto your chest (Fig.11. This way your upper shoulder does not curl down. or at least rest the upper part of it on your upper side. but rests directly above the other shoulder with your chest and back unconstricted. When rising from the bed in the morning. .

the new direction of your energy. even before you choke up or explode. Rather. then sit up gently as you ease your head and body up. By this procedure you can. by releasing tension throughout your body. tenses muscles in the neck. 106 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . do all your calisthenics after your body is more awake and your heart has adjusted its beat to a moving body. When you detect these signals. This is not the same as trying to suppress anger. The value of control can be seen if we recall for a moment the many unfortunate events in which we and those we love have been hurt by actions stemming from fear. they arise subconsciously before the conscious mind can act. for example. Anger. If you must do them in the morning. eliminate the panic from fear and size up the situation that inspires it and do something about it. wasteful or debilitating emotion will express itself in tensions that you can perceive even before you go haywire. anger or hostility. Emotions are not the result of a conscious decision.first roll onto your side. Emotional Control—Worry. simply give some attention to easing your head upward and allowing your body to follow after it. for instance. which can tie you into knots or make matters worse. Panic You can apply the Alexander Technique in your daily life so that your emotions do not get out of hand. among others. inundated by it. Anger. jaw and shoulders. Any harmful. gives you a means of coping with the emotion so that it remains a potential for action but does not interfere with rational decision and any action you may take.

It may be that you are not troubled in any of the ways described below. Following are some of the needless difficulties I have most often observed. The Worrier One of the most common tendencies seen in beginners is the "I can't" habit. the problem involved and the answer to it. and so we go about inventing them. If that is the case. The entire purpose of the sketches that follow is to provide a means for understanding and resolving any unnecessary problem you may recognize in yourself. Surely there have got to be complications. I have encountered many of the handicaps that people create for themselves at the beginning. If so. we manufacture unnecessary difficulties in the process of learning it. But perhaps you may discover one or another obstacle with which you have been needlessly hampering your own progress in acquiring the Technique. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique. It can be eliminated as soon as you become aware of it. These thumbnail portraits have been designed as a series of helpful hints for carrying out the Technique. The reason may -be that it seems too good to be true: it can't be that simple. take careful note of the sketch that applies to you. well and good. These people focus on what they won't or 107 . But perhaps because the Alexander Technique is so easy to do.Some Helpful Hints You now have the simple program that will make an important change in how you function at every level of your daily life. and it need not impede the smooth course of making the Alexander Technique your own.

Don't worry about what you're not doing. I suddenly thought. As I stood there. I realized I had been bent over. and began to press more lightly on the pot. This can't be right if it's making me feel good instead of strained and tired. "I'm not doing it! I can't. I was in the kitchen one day. guilt crept over me. Only by thinking during the activity was I able to avoid doing the excess work that made me feel I was doing the job right. after spending an entire morning teaching the Technique and talking a lot about integrating relaxation into daily activity. "Why not practice what you preach?" So I let my head move up and my body follow. When. It was still coming clean." The idea of the Alexander Technique is to pay attention to what you are doing. The Straining Housewife One of my own experiences can best explain what is involved here. As I stood there. While scrubbing away furiously at a burned pot and considering all this. There really is no need to be a "straining housewife. feeling very easy. I continued my experiment until the pot was clean and then I felt actually refreshed. they immediately ask themselves. Thinking about how you should be easing up is like making a plan to do the laundry instead of actually doing it. I let my arm lengthen and hold onto the scrub brush very lightly.can't do. I experimented with just how hard I needed to hold onto it. Still." 108 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . I began to notice a definite physical attitude that took over whenever I worked in the kitchen or performed other household chores. they give their bodies the instruction to follow their heads. Every activity had a different but usually effortful physical attitude attached to it. for example. pulling my shoulders in. I reasoned. In other words. it's not necessary to be in a state of continual regret when you feel you're in error. In the process. "Am I doing it?" They notice that nothing is happening and then they think. feeling better and better. After that experience. Are you pulling down? Then go up.

The Manipulator "When I get a tension headache. Direct your head to move upward and your body to follow with awareness. and pushing my head up. The Under-Achiever The under-achiever says: "Oh. but you can always continue to direct your head upward as you continue to move about. I can force . the other hand on my shoulder. How can words possibly make them go farther when you reach that limit?" What he has forgotten is that upward is a direction. not hands. well. This prevents the tendency to pull it downward." I tell her: You have not quite understood what I mean by "thinking. not a place.' I can't go around SOME HELPFUL HINTS 109 . Thinking in these terms must be an active process that actually releases you from the downward pulls you ordinarily experience. But I can't keep hanging on that way. But you can do some constructive thinking that carries over into every activity." Obviously. I can stretch my neck by putting one hand under my chin." It is not just the process of repeating the words or idea in your head. my head comes back down again. Go past words to experiencing the idea. you can't go around doing that and carry on your everyday activities. The Scientist He has deduced: "My head and body can only go so far upward before levitating is the next step. . When I take my hands off. Let it happen.The Thinker She says: "I think and think about my head going up but nothing happens. There is a maximum point of lengthening the spine. do it with my hands. . it takes so much energy to stay aware and remember to move 'Up.

You won't have to summon the thought to move your head. to move your head up. then "up" becomes relative to the movement you're doing. For example. and when I'm sitting still and not doing anything. I go up with my head and let my body follow to reach with my arm in any direction." When you're letting your head ease up and your body follow. The next step. The Step-by-Stepper He says: "I ease up every time before I move. The Freezer He declares: "I know where up is. I have things to do. If you do this. I can remember to think about it. 110 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . it will be there. You still have to learn how to recognize your own movement without tensing or pulling down. so all you have to do is continue moving and you'll get to where you want to be. and it's very hard to do two things at once. tense some muscles." Preventing the back-and-down pull is like breaking any other habit. If you bend over. Surely I have to do something. to get forward in a chair. At first you have to remind yourself to do something different—in this case.thinking about this all the time. but I just look as though I'm being stiff and formal. Soon this awareness will become an integral part of everything you do. will be to learn to continue directing the energy upward during the movement. I think about that immediate move and forget about easing up. That way change will come out of every activity you do and not as a result of something imposed on you. But as soon as I move. I think of any action as moving upward with my head and body." To the step-by-stepper I reply: See if you can ease up in order to make a move rather than easing up before you move. then. your head can still move up away from your body but of course not toward the ceiling. you're already moving.

Maybe I'm practicing wrong. Be satisfied with a little so that you notice the smaller changes more. taking a shower. And when do you use yourself most? In all your everyday activities—eating. let go of it. you're trying to learn to use yourself better." Whenever you think you're doing something right. you're easing up as soon as you think of it. I try to think about "it all the time. These are the things you do over and over again. I feel very uncomfortable and stiff. you've lost that flexibility. The Practicer She complains: "I go home and practice this Technique every day. When you start allowing your head to ease upward and your body to follow while you SOME HELPFUL HINTS 111 . hold it. and then I feel as though I shouldn't move or I'll lose it. That's fine. lock in and become inflexible. talking to a friend. and I don't ever slouch in a chair." First. I can really move forward and back in the chair very well. then when you get to the limit. The change you can make yourself is very subtle. When you get to the point where you refuse to change. You yourself change from movement to movement as do the requirements of any activity in which you may be engaged. So I don't turn my head. I still feel just as tense after a long day at the office as I always did.The Over-Achiever He has the opposite problem from the under-achiever: "When I do what I think is easing up and maintain. The fact is. but I don't seem to be making any change. What you do is make your head move up as far as possible. stop practicing and start living! In studying the Alexander principle. The point of asking you to let your head ease upward and your body to follow is that you can get a little more flexibility and ease. you tense up. probably without awareness. I do ten minutes in the morning and ten after dinner.

then you'll get the maximum use out of all your muscles. locked muscle tissue. for example. You don't have to think during all activity. for example. Go back to letting your head move upward and away from your body as your body follows. in taking a step.wash your hands. 112 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . some muscles don't get used at all. It just so happens that when you stop interfering with your body's natural functioning. in any movement you do. When you learn to use your body as an integrated whole. Because of unnecessary tension in certain parts of your body. notice and see if you can feel a little more ease. It's the way you use the energy that can be of help to your body. The Weight-Watcher Her reasonable question is: "You say that if I use the Alexander Technique I'll learn how to put less energy into doing everything. chin or anything else. and usually they become a deposit area for flabby fat. it just makes for hard. Then you're on the right track. Habitual tension doesn't keep you in shape. shoulders. Then you're giving yourself a choice you never knew you had before—the choice of acting with or without tension. whatever you do. Where is it again? Sometimes I decide to pull my chin in and push my shoulders back but they never seem to stay. body. then you'll be putting what you've learned to use. The Posture-Maker She says: 'I can't seem to remember where to put my head to get back that floating feeling. Won't I get flabby and out of shape if I stop exerting as much energy? Then I'll have to exercise twice as much. But every once in a while. And should my feet come down heel first or toe first?" There is no right place to put your head. The Alexander principle is a principle of movement." You're making the wrong assumption if you think that simply putting forth energy will keep you in shape. you stand up straighter. not of posture and position.

editor of Alexander's writings. and Edward Maisel. Ms. Barker consulted with Professor Raymond Dart. Texas. Louis. Missouri. In preparing this book Ms. She has taught the Alexander Technique at several campuses. Frank Pierce Jones who conducted major scientific experiments on the Alexander Technique at Tufts University. .ABOUT THE AUTHOR SARAH BARKER received her master's in fine arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. world-famous anthropologist who discovered australopithecus and who is self-taught in the Alexander Technique. among them Ohio University and Prescott College. Barker is now teaching the Alexander Technique at Webster College in St.

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